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Agronomy Journal Abstract - Crop Economics, Production & Management

Long-Term Corn Yield Impacted by Cropping Rotations and Bio-Covers under No-Tillage


This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 108 No. 4, p. 1495-1502
    Received: Sept 15, 2015
    Accepted: Mar 28, 2016
    Published: May 6, 2016

    * Corresponding author(s): aashwor2@utk.edu
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  1. Amanda J. Ashworth *a,
  2. Fred L. Allena,
  3. Arnold M. Saxtonb and
  4. Donald D. Tylerc
  1. a Dep. of Plant Sciences, University of Tennessee, 2431 Joe Johnson Dr., Knoxville, TN 37996
    b Dep. of Animal Science, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, TN 37996
    c Dep. of Biosystems Engineering & Soil Science, University of Tennessee, Jackson, TN 38301
Core Ideas:
  • Increasing cropping sequence diversity promotes greater yields when two species are included in a rotation compared to continuous corn.
  • Including soybean and cotton twice increased yields by 6 and 7%, respectively.
  • Bio-covers, particularly poultry litter and hairy vetch, increased corn yields compared to wheat cover crops.


Cropping diversity and bio-covers are perceived as integral components of conservation tillage because of increased pest control and soil organic matter. Consequently, effects of cropping sequences and bio-covers on corn (Zea mays L.) yields were assessed. Main effects were 10 cropping sequences of corn, cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.), and soybean (Glycine max L.) on a Loring silt loam (fine-silty, mixed, thermic Oxyaquic Fragiudalf) at the Research and Education Center (REC) at Milan, and seven cropping sequences of corn and soybean at the Middle Tennessee REC on a Maury silt loam (fine, mixed, active, mesic Typic Paleudalf). Sequences were repeated in 4-yr cycles (i.e., Phases I, II, and III) from 2002 to 2013. Strip-plot bio-covers consisted of hairy vetch (Vicia villosa L.), Austrian winter pea (Pisum sativum L. sativum var. arvense), wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), poultry litter, and fallow control. Across 12- yr, bio-covers, and locations, continuous corn and yields from all rotations were equivalent (7.6 and 7.9 Mg ha–1, respectively; P = 0.07). However, among phase × sequence interactions, corn–soybean–corn–soybean rotation was highest yielding during Phase III (10.1 Mg ha–1), which was greater than continuous corn during all phases (P < 0.05). Bio-covers, particularly poultry litter and hairy vetch, increased yields (across locations and years) when compared to wheat (P < 0.05). Incorporating soybean or cotton once within 4-yr cropping cycles was equivalent to continuous corn (P > 0.05). However, including soybean and cotton twice increased yields by 6 and 7%, respectively (P < 0.05). Results suggest including two crops within a 4-yr phase increases yields compared to continuous corn.

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