Last Updated on August 22, 2023 by Hannah Stevens
Summer Cover Crops Benefit Row Crop Production
Researchers at Clemson University have discovered that with vigilant selection of species and the proper planting time, inter-seeded summer cover crops can improve soil health, increase cash crop yields, and conserve water in the soil profile.
Researchers inter-seeded a mixture of white clover, buckwheat, and pigeon pea with corn in the V4, V7, and V10 growth stages of the corn crop over two growing seasons through a Southern Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Project (SSARE) On Farm Research Grant project. Then, the no cover crop control was used to evaluate the effects on soil moisture, soil health, and cash crop biomass.
Sruthi Narayanan, an assistant professor of crop ecology and principal investigator, stated that: “We found that cover crops when inter-seeded at V7 or V10 saved more water in the 20 cm soil profile than when they inter-seeded at V4 or compared to no cover crop control. Cover crops when inter-seeded at V10 or V7 growth stages of corn increased the biomass production of corn compared to the no-cover crop control. However, this benefit was not realized when cover crops were inter-seeded at the V4 growth stage of corn. Soil health score was higher when cover crops were planted at V7 and V10 corn growth stages compared to V4 and no-cover crop control in both seasons. Corn growth stages V7-V10 appear to be the ideal planting time for cover crop interseeding based on soil water conservation, soil health, and corn biomass production.”
Field trials were held at Mull Meadows Farm, Anderson County. Farmer Robert Mulliken, Anderson County Agronomy Officer Christopher Talley, as well as Economics Assistant Professor Lisha Zhang took part in this research.
This research was done to satisfy the growing interest in incorporating cover crop in row crop production in the Southeast. It also sought to find solutions to the challenges of successfully establishing cover crops during long growing seasons, while providing benefits for the soil and the cash crop.
Pioneer 2089VYHR, a forage corn variety, was planted at a rate of 36,000 plants/acre in 2020, and 32,000 plants/acre 2021. Cover crop treatments were manually sown using a push spreader during the V4, V7 and V10 stages of corn growth. The seeding rates for white clover were 3 lb/acre, 48 lb/acre for buckwheat, and 10 lb/acre for pigeon pea as single species. Then 1, 16, and 3.3 lb/acre for white clover, buckwheat, and pigeon pea respectively in the mixture. Control treatment was forage corn that had been planted without any inter-seeded cover crops. All plots measured 18 feet by 18 feet, and all plots were kept rainfed.
Narayanan stated that lack of diversity in the production system that makes it less adaptable to extreme climatic events and deterioration of soil health that affects long-term sustainability of the system are major challenges for organic and conventional farmers. She also said, “In order to address the above challenges, crop production needs methods that make the system more diverse, protect the environment, and are sustainable in the long run, which makes cover cropping a suitable approach to address those challenges. However, farmers may be reluctant to adopt the system without seeing it in action. This project is the first step in determining the feasibility of interseeded cover crops in corn production systems and may help increase the adoption of this technique by row crop producers.”
South Carolina Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) is a professional development program, which is sponsored by the Southern Region SARE, and co-coordinated by Clemson University and South Carolina State University. Their goal is to offer sustainable agriculture education and outreach programs for Cooperative Extension Service staff, Natural Resources Conservation Service personnel, and other agricultural professionals, farmers and landowners who are interested in sustainable agriculture. Stakeholder input through an advisory committee made up of non-government representatives, farmers, agriculture professionals, and those who are interested in sustainable agriculture development manages this Program. Through education and research, they strive to create a program to improve the state’s economic, social, and environmental sustainability. South Carolina SARE works with producers, researchers, extension faculty, and community organizations to research and implement the top science-based practices available in every area of Alabama’s agriculture system. Furthermore, SARE is committed to giving education in sustainable agriculture through a variety of training every year.
You can also read more about Farm Certifications – SARE Southern.
South Carolina Impacts
- $4.5 million in funding since 1988
- 73 projects funded since 1988
Professional Development Program
In each state, agricultural educators work directly alongside farmers and ranchers to promote sustainable agriculture production and marketing. SARE state agricultural coordinators offer support in sustainable agriculture education and outreach strategies through a program called “The Professional Development Program” (PDP).
The Sustainable Agriculture Fellows Program is offered by SARE and NACAA. It enhances Cooperative Extension staff’s knowledge of sustainable agriculture and gives them broad-based national exposure to unique and successful sustainable agriculture programs.
SARE State Coordinators play a vital role in expanding sustainable agriculture training for Extension, NRCS and other agricultural professionals. This will help producers transition to a more sustainable farming system.
1890 Extension State Program Leader
South Carolina State University
Email | (803) 878-9038
Professor and Director
Email | (843) 519-0464
SARE Funded Projects in South Carolina
Southern SARE provides grant possibilities for individuals or institutions across the Southern region. Below is a comprehensive list containing the currently funded SARE projects in South Carolina. You may search the Project Database to find complete reports on South Carolina’s previously funded projects. Before you apply for a grant, it is helpful to read through the reports in order to understand the types of projects SARE funds and supports.
Research and Education Grants
- LS19-306 Utility of Anaerobic Soil Disinfestation and Organic Herbicides for Weed and Disease Management in Organic Solanaceous Vegetable Systems
- LS19-305 Incorporating Natural, Non-toxic Arthropod Resistant Tomato Varieties into Southern Production Systems
Professional Development Program Grants
- FS20-326 Summer Cover Crops for Organic No-till Broccoli
- FS18-309 Studying the Use of Copper to Raise Healthier Goats
On-Farm Research Grants
- OS20-133 The Potential of Inter-seeded Cover Crops for Enhancing Soil Health and Soil Moisture Content in a Row Crop Production System
- OS18-118 Cover Cropping to Increase the Sustainability of Cropping Systems by Developing Soil Organic Matter, Improving Soil Health, and Suppressing Weed Growth
Graduate Student Grants
You can see more Farm Grants for Females elsewhere on this website.