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Winter Cover Crops to Sustain Soil in the Great Plains

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan

Citation:  2018 ASABE Annual International Meeting  1801864.(doi:10.13031/aim.201801864)
Authors:   M. B. Kirkham, O. W. Freeman, II, K. L. Roozeboom, A. J. Schlegel, S. A. Staggenborg
Keywords:   Great Plains; legumes; small grains; winter cover crops

Abstract. It is important to have cover crops on the soil to protect it from blowing during fallow periods. Because little information exists for cover crops in the Great Plains, this study compared three legume and three non-legume winter cover crops grown for three years (2010; 2011; 2012) at two locations in Kansas: Manhattan in the north-eastern part of the state and Hutchinson, in the south-central part of the state. The legume cover crops were alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.), Austrian winter pea (Pisum sativum var. arvense Poir.), and red clover (Trifolium pratense L.). The non-legume (small grain) cover crops were triticale (X Triticosecale; Triticum X Secale), winter oats (Avena sativa L.), and winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). The cover crops were planted and terminated at times corresponding to how they might be used in both a corn (Zea mays L.) or a forage sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench] rotation. Dry matter accumulation was determined for the cover crops. In 2011, alfalfa and red clover did not produce a stand at either location. In 2012, alfalfa, Austrian winter pea, and red clover did not produce a stand at either location. In addition, in 2012 winter oats did not produce a stand at Manhattan. Triticale and winter wheat were the only cover crops that produced a stand at both locations in all three years. The results indicated that small grain winter cover crops are better adapted to Kansas than legume winter cover crops and that triticale and winter wheat should be grown to stabilize the soil during the winter.

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