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Diverse Cover Crop Strategies for Improved Yield and Weed Suppression in Organic Cropping Systems for the Western Corn Belt

The Ceres Trust Organic Research Initiative Final Research Report

Principal Investigator:

Dr. John L. Lindquist
University of Nebraska-Lincoln
279 Plant Science Hall
Lincoln, NE 68583-0817
402-472-2771
402-472-3654
[email protected]

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Abstract

We requested funding to expand research initiated with a 2009 Ceres Trust grant on increasing cover crop diversity for weed suppression and improved soil health and productivity. The certified organic field and crop rotation established in 2009 was be modified in 2012 with new treatments reflecting what was learned in the first three years, including additional cover crop treatments that we hypothesize will further improve yield, weed suppression, and soil health. The first three years showed that a diverse mixture of spring-sown mustard cover crop species can reduce weed pressure in a subsequent row crop when terminated using a sweep plow undercutter. In 2012, we modified the original sunflower–soybean–corn certified organic crop rotation to a winter wheat-corn-soybean rotation and incorporated four new cover crop treatments to improve soil water and nutrient availability and soil health, and further suppress weed populations. Project results will provide innovative solutions for organic farmers seeking increased productivity, profitability, and system resilience by increasing biodiversity and reducing off-farm inputs, and these in combination will improve environmental quality.

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