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Optimizing Cover Crop Benefits with Diverse Mixtures and an Alternative Termination Method

Despite the demonstrated benefits of cover crops, on-farm adoption remains limited due to farmer concerns about the potential cost and management implications of cover crop use. One of the top concerns among farmers is the amount of soil water used by cover crops, potentially reducing available soil moisture for the cash crop. Legumes have been shown to reduce synthetic N input demands, the duration of cover crop growth, and subsequent crop N requirement. A mixture of legume and nonlegume species may maximize the benefits of biological N2 fixation and nutrient cycling, as legumes can increase N availability to other species in mixture leading to increased productivity. The objectives of this research were to determine the effects of spring-sown cover crop mixture diversity and mechanical cover crop termination method on cover crop and cash crop productivity, soil moisture, soil N, and cropping system profitability.

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