Cover crop use is being widely promoted throughout the entire United States because of the potential benefits related to protecting and improving the soil. However, data from studies conducted in semiarid environments such as the central Great Plains (where water is the single most limiting factor to crop production) indicate that cover crop water use may result in significant yield loss in following crops such as winter wheat. This presentation examines the reasons for why many of the benefits associated with cover crop use may not be seen in this water-limited environment. These reasons have to do with the differences in both the atmospheric forces driving crop evapotranspiraton (water use) and the available precipitation that occur in different regions of the country. Data from both long- and short-term experiments conducted under dryland conditions are presented that document cover crop water use (both from single-species and mixed-species plantings) and the effects of that water use on subsequent winter wheat yield. Costs associated with cover crop use are also documented. Major concerns for dryland crop production in this region are reduction of soil erosion potential and effective storage of precipitation. These two concerns may best be dealt with by good no-till management of existing crop residues rather than incorporation of cover crops into the cropping system.

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Limitations to Use of Cover Crops in Dryland Cropping Systems of the Semi-Arid Central Great Plains
Speaker Information
David C. Nielsen   [ view bio ]
Jacob Wagers
Justin Wagers
Individual topic purchase: Selected
Soil Science Society of America
Professional Meetings: 1.00
American Society of Agronomy
Soil and Water Management : 0.50
Crop Management : 0.50
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