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Cropping Systems CAP

The use of cover crops, common in the eastern and central Corn Belt, are uncommon in corn-soybean systems in the Upper Midwest and northern Great Plains due to the short growing season and extreme fluctuations in temperature and precipitation within and across growing seasons. Lack of winter soil cover increases soil organic matter and nutrient losses, resulting in decreased crop productivity and resiliency. For these reasons, larger amounts of agricultural inputs are required to maintain or increase yields. Therefore, there is a critical need to alter current cropping systems in our region by incorporating technologies to improve long-term productivity while enhancing ecosystem services. Our objectives include:

  • i) improving management of existing cropping systems for resilience and increased productivity by innovative seeding and nutrient management of cover crops

  • ii) improving land use efficiency in current cropping systems through the inclusion of winter camelina and field pennycress as cover/cash crops in double or relay-cropping, and improving corn-alfalfa productivity with intercropping

  • iii) increase awareness and adoption of sustainable management practices in our region. 

Our central hypothesis is that maintaining or increasing long-term productivity of current cropping systems can be achieved through increased adoption of the use of cover crops, double-, relay- or intercropping systems with current corn-soybean or wheat-soybean based systems. Our project seeks to renovate current cropping systems to improve sustainability of agricultural production. If the management of current cropping systems in the northern Upper Midwest and northern Great Plains is not improved, long-term productivity will likely decrease.

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