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Completed Research


Marisol T. Berti, B.L. Johnson, H. Kandel, J. Ransom, A. Wick, D. Franzen, D. Ripplinger, J. Nowatzki, A. Peterson1, M.S. Wells, A. Lenssen, S. Patel, R.W. Gesch, F. Forcella, and H. Matthees.

North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND 

University of Minnesota, St. Paul, MN

Iowa State University, Ames, IA

USDA-ARS, North Central Soil Conservation Research Lab, Morris, MN

The use of cover crops, common in the eastern and central Corn Belt, are uncommon in corn (Zea mays L.)-soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] systems in the northern Great Plains (NGP) 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. This Coordinated Agricultural Program (CAP) was funded by the USDA NIFA in April 2017 to improve the productivity, resilience, and long term sustainability of cropping systems in this region. Our objectives included: i) to improve land use efficiency in corn-soybean cropping systems by temporal intensification through the inclusion of winter camelina [Camelina sativa (L.) Crantz.] and field pennycress (Thlaspi arvense L.) as cover crops and/or cash oilseed crops, ii) to determine their impact on over-all system productivity and ecosystem services and iii) to improve land use efficiency by intercropping alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) with corn. The results of the first two years of this project indicate: i) that available soil water during the three weeks following interseeding is critical for the cover crop establishment and survival, ii) photosynthetically active radiation under both the corn and soybean leaf canopies is the main driver of interseeded cover crop growth, iii) winter rye (Secale cereale L.), radish (Raphanus sativus L.), and winter camelina interseeded into standing corn at V6-V8 stage had good establishment and they did not affect corn performance, iv) soybean interseeded at V6-V8 with winter rye did not affect soybean yield, but the addition of radish and winter camelina reduced soybean yield in the first growing season, v) the final results from data collected over two growing seasons from seven locations indicates that a distinct latitudinal gradient exists for optimum times to interseed winter annual cover crops into standing corn and soybean, vi) establishing winter annual cover crops in standing corn was more difficult, and greater success was achieved by establishment into standing soybean, viii) winter pea (Pisum sativum L.) provided the most soil cover compared with any other interseeded cover crop into soybean, viii) fall soil residual NO3-N was significantly higher in the check treatment compared with the plots with cover crops, ix) when cover crops were interseeded into the early maturing soybean variety at stage R6, the cover crops coverage was nearly half compared with the cover crops interseeded at R6 in the late maturing variety, and x) seasonal forage yield of alfalfa established in 2016 in intercropping with corn was significantly greater than the 2017 spring-seeded alfalfa. In conclusion, interseeding of winter annuals into corn and soybean is possible in the NGP and Upper Midwest.

Contact: Marisol Berti, Dep. of Plant Sciences, North Dakota State University, NDSU Dep. 7670, P.O. Box 6050, Fargo, ND 58108. Tel: 1 (701)-231-6110. E-mail:

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