Nebraska research to examine cover crop benefits

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Lincoln, Neb. — A new two-year study led by researchers from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln will focus on identifying the benefits of cover crops. 

“Our main objective is to find a balance point between lower soybean yields from shorter-season soybean maturity groups and increased cover crop biomass production following harvest of early maturing soybean varieties,” said Assistant Extension Educator Chris Proctor, who is part of a team that also includes researchers from the University of Kentucky and Ohio State University. They received $461,187 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute for Food and Agriculture for the study.   

The team will also be evaluating the weed suppression potential, insect and pathogen interactions resulting from cover crops providing a bridge between soybean and corn, forage and grazing potential from cover crops, and the influence of cover crops on soil microbial communities. 

Others from Nebraska involved in the project are Mary Drewnoski, assistant professor in the Animal Science department; Roger Elmore, professor in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture; Sydney Everhart, assistant professor in the Department of Plant Pathology; Justin McMechan, assistant professor in the Department of Entomology, Jay Parsons, associate professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics; Daren Redfearn, associate professor in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture; and Rodrigo Werle, assistant professor in the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture.

This research was one of 54 projects recently funded through USDA-NIFA’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative program totaling more than $17.7 million for plant research that helps optimize crop production, mitigate disease and increase yield.

"Plants are the foundation of diet for both humans and animals,” said NIFA Director Sonny Ramaswamy. “It is imperative to invest in research to stay ahead of the biological and environmental constraints, and develop new technologies to produce a secure, nutritious food supply for a growing population."

This research will add to an extensive examination of cover crops already underway on cover crops. Earlier this year, Nebraska joined a $6.6 million national research initiative launched by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research to promote soil health through the development and adoption of new cover crops across the United States. The short-term goals of that research are to identify the best cover crop species and varieties currently available through evaluation and screening, promote them to farmers and ranchers and increase effective options within the marketplace. 

Chris Proctor
Assistant Extension Educator
Nebraska Extension