Ontario - Canada Logos
SWEEP Banner

SWEEP Report #52

Field Scale Tests of Cover Crops I and II

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

Executive Summary

Evaluation Summary (Tech. Transfer Report Summaries)

View / Download Final Report  [2049 KB pdf]

Associated SWEEP/LSP Research



List By Number | List By Sub-Program

Completed: May, 1992

Key Words:

cover crop, barley, annual ryegrass, oats, corn, soybeans, winter wheat, hairy vetch, no-till

Executive Summary

During 1990-1991 three separate field scale cover crop trials were conducted in Middlesex, Perth and Huron counties in southwestern Ontario. The first trial looked at broadcasting barley and annual ryegrass into corn when the corn was at approximately the twelve leaf stage. This study was located at five locations, two of which were managed in an organic fashion and the remaining sites were band sprayed. The second area of study looked at seeding spring cereals (oats and barley) into soybeans at 10% leaf drop and prior to harvest. A total of five cooperators participated in this part of the study. The following year, 1991, the best performing treatments from the aforementioned studies were carried one step further. This trial examined seeding rates of 1/2X, 1X and 2X the recommended rate for annual ryegrass broadcast into corn and barley and oats seeded into soybeans at 10% leaf drop. A total of nine sites were involved in this project.

More than adequate rainfall was received around the time of cover crop application in 1990. However in 1991 insufficient precipitation levels were recorded at this time which had a dramatic effect on the performance of the cover crops, especially the annual ryegrass.

In both years, the spring cereals applied into soybeans at 10% leaf drop at the recommended rate increased residue levels by late fall relative to soybean stubble alone. Oats performed slightly better than barley in 1990 with the opposite occurring in 1991.

Practical considerations related to labour needs, weather and the timing of cover crop establishment for adequate fall growth did not favour the planting of spring cereals prior to soybean harvest.

In the first year annual ryegrass underseeded into corn produced considerably more top growth than either of the barley treatments by late fall. Due to lack of rainfall the annual ryegrass treatments in the second year performed at less than a satisfactory level.

The soybeans were slightly damaged at time of application as the cooperator's tractor, mounted with a seed broadcaster, was used to apply the seed. The main crop yields in the cover crop establishment year or the subsequent year were not significantly affected by any of the cover crop treatments.

Taking into consideration residue levels, rainfall simulation results and seed costs, annual ryegrass applied at the recommended rate of 15 kg/ha would be the choice of most producers.


Evaluation Summary

(From Technology Transfer Report Summaries - A. Hayes, L. Cruickshank, Co-Chairs)
The objectives of the cover crop study were:
  • to determine the effect of species, planting date and method of application, on current and subsequent crop growth and yield
  • to determine the effect of species, date and planting method on residue cover
  • to document costs associated with specific cover crop systems
  • to prepare general recommendations for cover crop system management for species, date and planting method
  • to evaluate the response of cooperating producers and extension workers to the systems demonstrated

The evaluation of the success of the systems was based on the following:

  • establishment of the cover crop
  • provision of ground cover
  • weed control
  • effects on the current crop in the establishment year and the following year.

Experiment number one field studied barley and oats seeded at 10% leaf drop in soybeans and seed broadcast at soybean harvest. Due to inclement weather six row barley species were used instead. Corn was planted in the spring of the following year.

Experiment 2 studied spring barley and annual ryegrass which were seeded into separate standing corn crops, early July.

Experiment 3 studied hairy vetch no-till drilled into winter wheat stubble in August, to compare the effect of timing of kill on growth and yield of no-till corn the following year. However, due to wet conditions the seed rotted and there was no germination or growth of hairy vetch. As a result the study was discontinued.

Experiment 4 studied various application rates of barley, oats, and annual ryegrass. The barley and oats were broadcast into soybeans at 10% leaf drop. Annual ryegrass was applied into corn at the second interrow cultivation.


The study set out to examine cover crop system effects on current and future crops. The two years allowed for the study is not long enough. Due to adverse weather conditions and other circumstances many of the studies ran only for one year.

The management varied from site to site as the farm management varied. This makes it difficult to draw conclusions and compare cover crops. The seeding rate was extremely variable and frequently was not the rate that was to be studied, making comparisons more difficult.

The report is difficult to read, as sites not treatments are compared. The results do not show any clear advantage to using intercrops in corn or soybeans where sufficient residue exists and is left on the soil surface.

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 #27 - Cereal Cover Crop Study
  • SWEEP Report #36 - Red Clover Cover Crop Studies 1987-1990
  • SWEEP Report #43 - The Use of Cover Crops for Nutrient Conservation
  • SWEEP Report #57A - Field Testing of Cover Crop Systems for Corn and Soybean Production
  • 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.




List By Number | List By Sub-Program | LSP Report List


Created: 05-28-1996
Last Revised: Thursday, May 19, 2011 03:58:42 PM