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This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 103 No. 2, p. 316-323
    Received: July 24, 2010

    * Corresponding author(s): tyson.ochsner@okstate.edu
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Winter Rye Cover Crop Management Influences on Soil Water, Soil Nitrate, and Corn Development

  1. Erik S. Kruegera,
  2. Tyson E. Ochsner *b,
  3. Paul M. Porterd and
  4. John M. Bakerc
  1. a Dep. of Soil, Water, and Climate, Univ. of Minnesota, 1991 Buford Circle, St. Paul, MN 55108
    b Dep. of Plant and Soil Sciences, Oklahoma State Univ., 368 Agricultural Hall, Stillwater, OK 74078
    d Dep. of Agronomy and Plant Genetics, Univ. of Minnesota, 1991 Buford Circle, St. Paul, MN 55108. Portions of this research were performed while the corresponding author was with USDA-ARS, St. Paul, MN
    c Soil and Water Management Research Unit, USDA-ARS, 1991 Buford Circle, St. Paul, MN 55108


A winter rye (Secale cereale L.) cover crop can be seeded after corn (Zea mays L.) silage to mitigate some of the environmental concerns associated with corn silage production. Rye can be managed as a cover crop by chemical termination or harvested for forage. A field study was conducted in Morris, MN in 2008 and 2009 to determine the impact of killed vs. harvested rye cover crops on soil moisture and NO3–N, and to monitor the impact of the rye on subsequent corn yield. Corn for silage was seeded either after winter fallow (control), after a rye cover crop terminated 3 to 4 wk before corn planting (killed rye), or after a rye forage crop harvested no more than 2 d before corn planting (harvested rye). Soil moisture after killed rye was similar to the control, but after harvested rye was 16% lower. Available soil NO3–N was decreased after both killed rye (35%) and harvested rye (59%) compared to the control. Corn biomass yield after killed rye was similar to the control, but yield following harvested rye was reduced by 4.5 Mg ha−1 Total forage biomass yield (silage + rye) was similar for all treatments. This work demonstrates that the environmental benefits of a winter rye cover crop can be achieved without impacting corn yield, but the later termination required for rye forage production resulted in soil resource depletion and negatively impacted corn silage yield.

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