Green cover crops poke out through corn stubble

(Photo: Joseph L. Murphy/Iowa Soybean Association)

Making cover crops and no-till work in corn production

March 8, 2021

The Iowa Soybean Association (ISA) Research Center for Farming Innovation (ISA) is looking for ways to help farmers realize a yield increase from the use of cover crops in corn production. ISA Senior Field Services Program Manager Scott Nelson believes accomplishing the task is only a matter of time. Nelson said there are many agronomic challenges to no-till and cover crop systems, and society is looking to ISA to fix them.

Reviewing studies and research from the ISA, Iowa State University, Scientific Reports, Soil Science Society of America Journal and more, discussion dives into some of the reasons why there could be a yield loss for no-till corn or corn following cover crops, reviewing the unique challenges regarding nitrogen as cover crops do their job to sequester nitrate. Additionally, Nelson compares what methods held yield advantages in small-lot and on-farm studies.

Some of the results outlined from the 2020 Corn Following Cereal Rye study performed in Clarion – which is set to be repeated in 2021 – showed:

  • A yield advantage for corn following cereal rye in a dry summer if nitrogen form and placement were different
  • Broadcast stabilized urea and ammonia sulphate resulted in a yield advantage
  • Liquid starter and early side-dress UAN had a yield advantage over no-cover crops, fall anhydrous system

In addition to reviewing the study in-depth, Nelson also looks at one farmer’s all liquid system for corn after cover crops and provides tips for poorly drained soils. Listen to the senior field services program manager’s findings, recommendations, and the potential benefits of no-till and cover crop systems in the video below.

Interested in learning how cover crops can work in your no-till system? Contact Scott Nelson to set up a field trial.