Cover crops to improve soil health in the North American Great Plains


Rotating cereal crops (e.g., wheat [Triticum aestivum L.] with a 10- to 21-mo summer fallow period [fallow]) is a common farming practice in dryland (rainfed) agricultural regions. Fallow is associated with several challenges including low precipitation storage efficiency, depletion of soil organic carbon (SOC), loss of soil fertility, little crop residue retention and soil erosion, and few control options for herbicide-resistant (HR) weeds. The inability to effectively control HR weeds poses a major challenge to maintaining soil and water conservation practices such as no-tillage, as some producers are considering tillage to control weeds. Cover crop (CC) integration into wheat-based production systems to replace portions of the fallow period provides an opportunity to increase SOC, improve soil fertility, suppress weeds, and increase profitability of dryland crop production, especially when CCs are used as forage. This forum paper used the North American Great Plains as a model region to review information on (a) challenges of dryland agriculture; (b) integrating CCs in dryland agriculture; (c) benefits, challenges, and limitations of CCs in dryland crop production; (d) management options for CC integration in dryland grain systems; and (e) recommendations for future research efforts.



cover crop, herbicide resistant, soil organic carbon


Obour, Augustine K., Logan M. Simon, Johnathon D. Holman, Patrick M. Carr, Meagan Schipanski, Steven Fonte, Rajan Ghimire, Thandiwe Nleya, and Humberto Blanco‐Canqui. "Cover crops to improve soil health in the North American Great Plains." Agronomy Journal 113, no. 6 (2021): 4590-4604.
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