Multi-species cover crops in the northern Great Plains : an ecological persepctive on biodiversity and soil health
Housman, Megan Leigh.
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As summer fallow is replaced by cover crops, we aim to address how cover crops influence soil properties. Past studies conducted across the Northern Great Plains have investigated the short- and long- term effects of LGMs on water, nitrate, and carbon storage, soil parameters including potentially mineralizable nitrogen (PMN) and enzymatic activity, and wheat yield. Less knowledge exists regarding similar short- and especially long-term effects of CCMs in the NGP. This four-year study replicated at four sites in Montana allows us to investigate how site characteristics and annual weather patterns can influence the performance of cover crop growth and the subsequent effect on soil quality. Our research approach to building cover crop mixtures using functional group composition rather than species composition aims to make the work more broadly applicable to other regions. Other regions may utilize more adapted legume or brassica species and could still use our results to estimate their effects on soil and nitrate use throughout the soil profile or their effects on soil biological parameters.