Effect of Cover Cropping Systems on Dryland Soybean Plant-vigor, Growth, and Yield
Sustainable Production
AgricultureField management
Lead Principal Investigator:
Mark Shankle, Mississippi State University
Co-Principal Investigators:
Project Code:
Contributing Organization (Checkoff):
Institution Funded:
Brief Project Summary:
How do agronomic system changes impact crop yields, soil properties and profitability? This long-term research project tackled these big questions in dryland soybeans. Awareness of soil as a living ecosystem is increasing, sparking interest in fall cover crops, no-tilling cash crops and applying organic fertilizer as an alternative to commercial inorganic fertilizer. This complex study to look at how multiple practices work together in a system included five cover crop options, three fertilizer treatments and two soybean planting dates. For five years, the team has gathered plot data, including soil characteristics and yield.
Key Beneficiaries:
#agronomists, #farmers
Unique Keywords:
#cover crops
Information And Results
Project Summary

This study is focused on identifying production practices that will provide more consistent dryland soybean yields while improving soil health. Inconsistent yields are a problem for many dryland soybean producers due to the lack of rainfall at critical times during the growing season.

There is an increased awareness of soil as a living ecosystem that we rely on to grow quality crops for food, feed, and non-food uses. It has been suggested that cover crops offer many benefits for crop productivity, soil health, and environmental sustainability such as; improved water infiltration and soil moisture retention, promotion of soil micro-organism diversity, improved nutrient availability, and enhanced soil organic matter (SOM), which can improve soybean yields.

Fertilizer requirements may differ with a cropping systems approach compared to conventional production practices because cover crops scavenge leftover nutrients from the previous crop and release them as they decay. In addition to cover crops, the use of poultry litter as a nutrient source could be used to enhance SOM, increase water holding capacity, improve nutrient retention, and provide micro-nutrients that may be needed to improve soil health. The practice of no-tillage could also be utilized to improve water infiltration and retention of soil moisture, help build SOM by leaving plant residue on the soil surface, and reduce fuel and labor requirements.

Another strategic factor in this system is cover crop termination and soybean planting date. Earlier plantings tend to have higher yields in Mississippi due to growth and development before drought conditions occur.

Project Objectives

Objective 1. Evaluate the effects of cover cropping systems on dryland soybean plant-vigor, growth, and yield.
Objective 2. Evaluate the effects of cover cropping systems on “soil health” (physical characteristics, microorganisms, soil moisture, etc.).
Objective 3. Determine the economic benefit of cover crops, source of fertilizer, and planting date on soybean production.

Project Deliverables

Progress Of Work

Final Project Results

Benefit To Soybean Farmers

Identifying an affordable cover cropping system that will minimize inconsistent dryland soybean yield due to lack of timely rainfall events could provide additional profit for dryland soybean production. But, it is difficult to put a price on the “peace of mind” in achieving a consistent dryland soybean yield for years to come.

The United Soybean Research Retention policy will display final reports with the project once completed but working files will be purged after three years. And financial information after seven years. All pertinent information is in the final report or if you want more information, please contact the project lead at your state soybean organization or principal investigator listed on the project.