Morehead State University

Poster Title

Improving Soil Health With a Multispecies Cover Cropping System: Preliminary Data

Institution

Morehead State University

Abstract

Cover cropping is a cultural practice that can be used for weed suppression, nutrient cycling enhancement, soil health improvement, and improved cost efficiency. Organic matter accumulation and high levels of microbial activity near the soil surface in reduced tillage systems can decrease the germination of weed seeds. Cover crops can provide increased levels of nitrogen though symbiotic fixation and can help recycle other nutrients thereby reducing producer cost. In the fall of 2012 a multi-species cover crop of Austrian winter pea (Pisum sativum subsp. arvense), crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum), daikon radish (Raphanus sativus), and rye (Secale cereale) was established on part of a field that had been used for 15+ years to produce corn (Zea mays) silage under a conventional or reduced tillage. In the fall of 2014 soil health tests were conducted on the cover cropped portion of the field and on the noncover cropped portion of the same field. In 2015 soil health tests were repeated. Soil health tests measure characteristics such as aggregate stability, porosity, and biological activity, for instance, the number of earthworms per cubic foot of soil. Two years of data appear to show a trend toward soil health improvement. Indicative of this improvement is the increase in earthworm numbers in the cover cropped areas compared to non-cover cropped areas. Research was supported by the MSU Undergraduate Fellowship Program, the MSU Department of Agricultural Sciences, and MCTCS.

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Improving Soil Health With a Multispecies Cover Cropping System: Preliminary Data

Cover cropping is a cultural practice that can be used for weed suppression, nutrient cycling enhancement, soil health improvement, and improved cost efficiency. Organic matter accumulation and high levels of microbial activity near the soil surface in reduced tillage systems can decrease the germination of weed seeds. Cover crops can provide increased levels of nitrogen though symbiotic fixation and can help recycle other nutrients thereby reducing producer cost. In the fall of 2012 a multi-species cover crop of Austrian winter pea (Pisum sativum subsp. arvense), crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum), daikon radish (Raphanus sativus), and rye (Secale cereale) was established on part of a field that had been used for 15+ years to produce corn (Zea mays) silage under a conventional or reduced tillage. In the fall of 2014 soil health tests were conducted on the cover cropped portion of the field and on the noncover cropped portion of the same field. In 2015 soil health tests were repeated. Soil health tests measure characteristics such as aggregate stability, porosity, and biological activity, for instance, the number of earthworms per cubic foot of soil. Two years of data appear to show a trend toward soil health improvement. Indicative of this improvement is the increase in earthworm numbers in the cover cropped areas compared to non-cover cropped areas. Research was supported by the MSU Undergraduate Fellowship Program, the MSU Department of Agricultural Sciences, and MCTCS.