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Agronomy Journal Abstract -

Fall-Seeded Legume Cover Crops for No-Tillage Corn in the Humid East


This article in AJ

  1. Vol. 82 No. 1, p. 117-124
    Received: Aug 11, 1988

    * Corresponding author(s):
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  1. J. F. Holderbaum,
  2. A. M. Decker ,
  3. J. J. Messinger,
  4. F. R. Mulford and
  5. L. R. Vough
  1. D ep. Agron. Bldg. 477 Univ. of Florida, Gainesville, FL 3261
    D ep. Agron., Univ. of Maryland, Maryland, College Park, MD 20742
    E nviron. Chem. Lab., USDA-ARS, Beltsville, MD 20705



No-tillage systems utilizing winter cover crops can reduce erosion and leaching losses. Fall-seeded legumes can also supply significant amounts of N to subsequent corn (Zea mays L.) crops. The suitability of 14 fall-seeded legumes, three small grains and four legume/grass mixtures was evaluated for winter covers from 1982 through 1985 on Matapeake silt loam (fine-loamy, mixed, mesic, Typic Hapludult) and Mattapex silt (fine-silty, mixed mesic, Aqualfic Normuldult) Coastal Plain soils as well as Delanco silt loam and Chester silt loam (fine-loamy, mixed, mesic, Aquic Hapludult) Piedmont soils. Hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth), crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum L.) and Austrian winter peas [Pisum sativum (L.) Poir.] were the most promising cover crops. Fall growth and early soil coverage was highest with crimson and lowest with vetch which had higher winter survival and spring growth. Peas and, to a lesser extent, crimson clover stands were damaged in some years by Sclerotinia trifoliorum Eriks. In some years top growth of vetch contained up to 350 kg N/ha. While N concentration varied among species, total N production was determined more by dry matter yield. Legume cover crops had a greater influence on corn grain yields on the heavier textured soils and longer growing season of the Coastal Plain. In 1985, N contribution to the subsequent corn crop was reduced when small grains were seeded with annual legumes. Results from these studies show that winter annual legumes can reduce N costs while providing better soil protection during winter months.

Joint contributions of Maryland Agric. Exp. Stn. Maryland Journal no. A-4758 and USDA-BARC-West.

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