Benefits of winter cereal rye cultivar selection in mitigating corn yield drag

Date: 
Sep 2022

Issue

Winter cereal rye (CR) is the most popular species of cover crop grown in Iowa and supports agricultural sustainability. CR may be planted before either corn and soybean, however, the response of these cash crops to the CC varies, including a positive or no effect on soybean yield versus and often, a negative effect on corn yield.

Two factors that may play a role in reduced corn yields are allelopathy and seedling disease caused by Pythium spp. We demonstrated more severe seedling disease (root rot) was observed when corn was inoculated with Pythium spp. and grown in the presence of rye allelochemicals and root extracts. Levels of allelochemicals in CR can vary depending on the cultivar, growth stage of the CR, above ground biomass and growing conditions. Since reduced yields of corn following a CR occur across different fields and years, we hypothesize characteristics of a CR cultivar (biomass and/or allelochemical production) may affect the alleopathy-Pythium spp.-corn interaction.

In this research, we plan to investigate if corn seedling disease caused by Pythium species varies among CR cultivars due to differences in allelochemical production by each CR cultivar.

Objective

An improved understanding of how CR cultivars affect seedling disease and corn yield would lead to recommendations regarding the best cultivars to plant ahead of corn and thus improve best management practices for using cereal rye as a cover crop in corn-soybean production systems. More specifically, resesarchers plan to:

  1. Evaluate the effect of exudates obtained from different CR cultivars on corn seedling growth.
  2. Evaluate the effect of exudates obtained from different CR cultivars on the growth of Pythium species.
  3. Observe the interaction between Pythium spp. and exudates obtained from different CR cultivars on corn seedling growth and root rot development.
  4. Present research at professional meetings and conferences and field days.

Approach

For objectives 1-3, a plate assay will be used to study rye exudates and allelochemicals from five cultivars of CR (Serafino, Hazlet, Tayo, Yankee, and Elbon). The growth of corn (Obj. 1), Pythium species, (P. lutarium, P. oopapillum, and P. torulosum) (Obj. 2), and corn seedlings inoculated with Pythium spp. (Obj.3) will be evaluated on media amended with the allelochemical exudates from each CR cultivar. For objective 3, a cup assay will also be used. Each treatment (Pathogen alone, corn alone, Pathogen + corn) will be replicated six times and each experiment repeated twice.

Corn seedling growth parameters (emergence, radicle length, shoot length) and percent of seedling root rot of each seedling will be recorded and analyzed.

Award Number: 
2022-10