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SWEEP Report #27

Cereal Cover Crop Study

J. Sadler Richards, Conservation Management Systems - A Division of Ecologistics Ltd., Lucan, Ontario

Executive Summary

Evaluation Summary (Tech. Transfer Report Summaries)

Associated SWEEP/LSP Research

View Report  (94 KB pdf)



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Completed: July, 1991

Key Words:

cover crop, cereal, erosion control, conservation cropping, residue cover

Executive Summary

During 1987-1989 four trials were conducted in Middlesex and Huron Counties, in southwestern Ontario to study the effect of cereal crop species (rye, barley, oats) and method of planting on the growth and yield of no-till planted corn. The methods of planting included broadcasting the seed at soybean leaf drop, broadcasting the seed at soybean harvest, tilling the soil and drilling the seed into soybean residue and a control where no seed was planted. Excess rainfall during the fall of 1987 and 1988 and drought during late spring of 1988 affected the performance of the cover crops and main (corn) crop. Results from two years of study indicate that winter rye, spring barley and spring oats seeded at soybean leaf drop or at harvest increased soil residue cover when compared to soybean stubble alone, through winter and early spring. Barley and to a lesser degree, oats, seeded at harvest followed by seeding at leaf drop achieved the best corn growth and yield. Practical considerations related to labour needs, weather and the timing of cover crop establishment for adequate fall growth do not favour the planting of cereal cover crops at or after harvest.


Evaluation Summary

(From Technology Transfer Report Summaries - A. Hayes, L. Cruickshank, Co-Chairs)

A two year study evaluated the performance of various cereal crops in producing residue and their subsequent ability to decrease the potential for erosion.

This study indicated that winter rye, spring barley and spring oats seeded at soybean leaf drop or at harvest increased soil residue cover in the winter or early spring when compared to soybean stubble alone. After planting, the differences in soil surface residue levels were insignificant.

Barley, and to a lesser extent oats, "seeded at harvest" followed by seeding at leaf drop resulted in optimum corn growth and yield when compared to treated plots. In general, no significant yield increases were realized when compared with the check.

The main objective of the study was to determine if any of these systems could improve on the residue protection offered by untilled soybean stubble. Simulated rainfall run-off plots indicated no significant improvement in erosion control between any of the plots.


Advantages: Cereal cover crops may be of value when entering a reduced tillage situation with little or no residue (ie. minimum tillage in white bean stubble).

Drawbacks: Traditionally fall has a high demand on labour. This system may further stress an overloaded system. Increased input cost with no increase in either yield or erosion protection. Cover crops may complicate weed control strategies.

Associated SWEEP/LSP Research:

  • SWEEP Report #12 - Choice and Management of Cover Crop Species and Varieties for Use in Row Crop Dominant Rotations

  • SWEEP Report #36 - Red Clover Cover Crop Studies, 1987-1990

  • SWEEP Report #43 - The Use of Cover Crops for Nutrient Conservation

  • LSP7005 - Crop Rotations and Cover Crop Effects on Erosion Control, Tomato Yields and Soil Properties in Southwestern Ontario

  • LSP7009 - A Cover Cropping Strategy for First Early Potato Production

Future Research: ( ) indicates reviewers suggestion for priority, A - high, C - low.

None required.




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Created: 05-28-1996
Last Revised: Thursday, May 19, 2011 02:39:05 PM