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Contributions of Individual Cover Crop Species to Rainfed Maize Production in Semi-Arid Cropping Systems

Winter-sensitive cover crop (CC) species are frost-killed during winter, which limits their growth to the fall. Winter-hardy CC species can survive winter temperatures and accumulate biomass in the fall and spring. Cereal rye is one of the most popular CCs grown in maize-soybean cropping systems in the United States Midwest region. Cereal rye has become a popular CC due to its rapid establishment, high biomass production, ability to suppress weeds, winter-hardiness, low cost, and seed availability compared to other CCs. Other grass species such as oats and spring-triticale are also commonly grown as CCs across the United States and are potential alternatives to cereal rye. However, oats and spring-triticale are not considered winter-hardy species, and if fall-seeded, likely will not produce biomass in the spring. Besides aboveground biomass, fibrous and extensive root production is an attribute of grass CCs. The objectives of this experiment were to evaluate the impact of CC species selection on soil water content and penetration resistance, weed demographics, soil N levels, and subsequent maize grain yield.

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