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Home > Protecting Our Lands & Waters > Clean Water Fund > Forever Green Initiative > Effect of Cover Crops on Water Use and Nitrogen Leaching

Effect of Cover Crops on Water Use and Nitrogen Leaching in Corn and Soybean Cropping Systems

Principal Investigator:
Axel Garcia y Garcia, Assistant Professor
Southwest Research and Outreach Center and Department of Agronomy and Plant Genetics

Project Summary

Corn and soybeans are typically grown in rotation using conventional practices based on high external inputs such as nitrogen, a vital nutrient to enhance plant growth. If applications exceed the plant demand, nitrogen may leach into the groundwater. This may worsen if fields lack ground cover during the early spring, as they are more prone to nitrogen losses through tile drainage. Cover crops technology is considered an affordable and environmentally friendly option to reduce nitrogen losses and to enhance environmental quality.

Goals and Oblectives:  The overall objective of this project is to determine the effectiveness of camelina and pennycress cover on reducing nitrogen losses due to leaching. 

Approach and Methodolgy:  The project will be developed on existing Forever Green Initiative experiments located in Morris, Waseca, and Lamberton. The trials in Morris and Waseca consist of conventional and no-till wheat-soybean rotation with camelina and pennycress as cover crops in relay with soybean. The experiments in Lamberton consist of tilled corn and non-tilled soybean rotation with camelina and pennycress as cover crops. Critical periods of available soil water to both primary and cover crops will be identified. The nitrogen leaching in corn and soybean fields in rotation with camelina and pennycress will be determined.

Anticipated Outcomes:  The outcomes from this project include information on the potential of camelina and pennycress for improving water quality and recommendations to producers on the benefits and limitations of cover crops as related to water and N issues.

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