Abstract: Although no-till soil management has many benefits, including protecting the soil from erosion, improving soil organic matter and improving soil moisture storage, depending on environmental conditions there could be a number of potential problems. Implementation of no-till soil management in eastern South Dakota can lead to wet and cold soils at the time of planting. Cover crops have the potential to utilize excess soil moisture and improve soil conditions at planting. A field experiment was established to evaluate the impact of 14 different cover crop species as well as no cover crop and conventional tillage on soil conditions prior to corn planting and the impact on corn yield and quality. The experimental design was a randomized complete block design with 4 replications. Cover crops evaluated include a mixture of grass, legumes, cool and warm season crops. All cover crops were planted in early August (following spring wheat harvest) at recommended seeding rates. The following spring all plots were planted to corn (Zea mays L.). The experiment was conducted in a 3 year crop rotation (soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merrill] /spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.)-cover crop/corn). Cover crop species that survived the winter included hairy vetch, red clover, sweet clover, Alsike clover, slender wheatgrass and winter ryegrass. The presence of these species increased soil strength and reduced soil moisture. Corn grown following hairy vetch was the only treatment that exhibited a significant reduction in plant population. Corn yield for plots grown under red clover, winter ryegrass and no cover crop had yield significantly higher than corn grown after conventional tillage, hairy vetch and slender wheatgrass. This experiment illustrated the ability of cover crops to utilize excess soil moisture and increase soil strength compared to conventional tillage or no cover crop.
S.L. Osborne , T.E. Schumacher and D.S. Humburg , 2008. Evaluation of Cover Crops to Increase Corn Emergence, Yield and Field Trafficability. Agricultural Journal, 3: 397-400.