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Drill and broadcast establishment methods influence interseeded cover crop performance in organic corn

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 January 2020

John M. Wallace*
Department of Plant Science, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA16802, USA
Sarah Isbell
Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA16802, USA
Ron Hoover
Department of Plant Science, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA16802, USA
Mary Barbercheck
Department of Entomology, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA16802, USA
Jason Kaye
Department of Ecosystem Science and Management, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA16802, USA
William S. Curran
Department of Plant Science, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA16802, USA
Author for correspondence: John M. Wallace, E-mail:


Organic grain producers are interested in interseeding cover crops into corn (Zea mays L.) in regions that have a narrow growing season window for post-harvest establishment of cover crops. A field experiment was replicated across 2 years on three commercial organic farms in Pennsylvania to compare the effects of drill- and broadcast-interseeding to standard grower practices, which included post-harvest seeding cereal rye (Secale cereale L.) at the more southern location and winter fallow at the more northern locations. Drill- and broadcast-interseeding treatments occurred just after last cultivation and used a cover crop mixture of annual ryegrass [Lolium perenne L. ssp. multiflorum (Lam.) Husnot] + orchardgrass (Dactylis glomerata L.) + forage radish (Raphanus sativus L. ssp. longipinnatus). Higher mean fall cover crop biomass and forage radish abundance (% of total) was observed in drill-interseeding treatments compared with broadcast-interseeding. However, corn grain yield and weed suppression and N retention in late-fall and spring were similar among interseeding treatments, which suggests that broadcast-interseeding at last cultivation has the potential to produce similar production and conservation benefits at lower labor and equipment costs in organic systems. Post-harvest seeding cereal rye resulted in greater spring biomass production and N retention compared with interseeded cover crops at the southern location, whereas variable interseeding establishment success and dominance of winter-killed forage radish produced conditions that increased the likelihood of N loss at more northern locations. Additional research is needed to contrast conservation benefits and management tradeoffs between interseeding and post-harvest establishment methods.

Research Paper
Copyright © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press

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