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Soil Water Improvements with the Long-Term Use of a Winter Rye Cover Crop

Cover crops can provide many benefits, but producers might be reluctant to adopt them if they perceive an increased risk of water stress for the cash crop. Therefore, to increase adoption of cover crops it is important to determine whether cover crop water use reduces water availability for the following cash crop. It is also important to improve our understanding of how a cover crop alters water dynamics over wetter and drier seasons to evaluate their benefits in mitigating rainfall variability impacts. This study analyzed an extensive dataset from a long-term field site that included seven years of continuous soil water content measurements recorded over years with very different weather patterns and treatments with and without a cereal rye winter cover crop. Crop growth data and soil hydraulic property measurements were collected from the most recent two years of the experiment.

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