Hostname: page-component-7479d7b7d-k7p5g Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-07-15T04:46:17.687Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Late-seeded cover crops in a semiarid environment: overyielding, dominance and subsequent crop yield

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 May 2021

John R. Hendrickson*
Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory, USDA-ARS Box 459, Mandan, ND58554, USA
Mark A. Liebig
Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory, USDA-ARS Box 459, Mandan, ND58554, USA
David W. Archer
Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory, USDA-ARS Box 459, Mandan, ND58554, USA
Marty R. Schmer
Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory, USDA-ARS Box 459, Mandan, ND58554, USA Agroecosystem Management Research Unit, 137 Keim Hall, Univ. Nebr., Lincoln, NE68583, USA
Kristine A. Nichols
Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory, USDA-ARS Box 459, Mandan, ND58554, USA KRIS-Systems, 6625 E. 3rd Street, Scottsdale, AZ85251, USA
Donald L. Tanaka
Northern Great Plains Research Laboratory, USDA-ARS Box 459, Mandan, ND58554, USA
Author for correspondence: John R. Hendrickson, E-mail:


Interest in cover crops is increasing but information is limited on integrating them into crop rotations especially in the relatively short growing season on the northern Great Plains. A 3-yr research project, initiated in 2009 near Mandan, North Dakota, USA, evaluated (1) what impact cover crops may have on subsequent cash crops yields and (2) whether cover crop mixtures are more productive and provide additional benefits compared to cover crop monocultures. The study evaluated 18 different cover crop monocultures and mixtures that were seeded in August following dry pea (Pisum sativum L.). The following year, spring wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), corn (Zea mays L.), soybean (Glycine max L.) and field pea were seeded into the different cover crop treatments and a non-treated control. A lack of timely precipitation in 2009 resulted in a low cover crop yield of 17 g m2 compared to 100 and 77 g m2 in 2008 and 2010, respectively. Subsequent cash crop yield was not affected by late-seeded cover crops. Cool-season cover crop monocultures were more productive than warm-season monocultures and some mixtures in 2008 and 2010. Relative yield total did not differ from one in any cover crop mixture suggesting that overyielding did not occur. Species selection rather than species diversity was the most important contributor to cover crop yield. Cover crops can be grown following short-season cash crops in the northern Great Plains, but precipitation timing and species selection are critical.

Research Paper
Copyright © United States Department of Agriculture and The Author(s), 2021. To the extent this is a work of the US Government, it is not subject to copyright protection within the United States. Published by Cambridge University Press.

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Aguilar, J, Gramig, GG, Hendrickson, JR, Archer, DW, Forcella, F and Liebig, MA (2015) Crop species diversity changes in the United States: 1978–2012. PLoS One 10, e0136580.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Anderson, TW and Darling, DA (1952) Asymptotic theory of certain ‘goodness of fit’ criteria based on stochastic processes. Annals of Mathematical Statistics 23, 193212.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Berger, WH and Parker, FL (1970) Diversity of planktonic foraminifera in deep-sea sediments. Science 168, 13451347.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Blanco-Canqui, H, Claassen, MM and Presley, DR (2012) Summer cover crops fix nitrogen, increase crop yield, and improve soil-crop relationships. Agronomy Journal 104, 137147.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Blanco-Canqui, H, Shaver, TM, Lindquist, JL, Shapiro, CA, Elmore, RW, Francis, CA and Hergert, GW (2015) Cover crops and ecosystem services: insights from studies in temperate soils. Agronomy Journal 107, 24492474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Blesh, J (2018) Functional traits in cover crop mixtures: biological nitrogen fixation and multifunctionality. Journal of Applied Ecology 55, 3848.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Bonin, CL and Tracy, BF (2012) Diversity influences forage yield and stability in perennial prairie plant mixtures. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 162, 17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Cardinale, BJ, Duffy, JE, Gonzalez, A, Hooper, DU, Perrings, C, Venail, P, Narwani, A, MacE, GM, Tilman, D, Wardle, DA, Kinzig, AP, Daily, GC, Loreau, M, Grace, JB, Larigauderie, A, Srivastava, DS and Naeem, S (2012) Biodiversity loss and its impact on humanity. Nature 486, 5967.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Creamer, NG, Bennett, MA and Stinner, BR (1997) Evaluation of cover crop mixtures for use in vegetable production systems. HortScience 32, 866870.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
CTIC (2017) Report of the 2016–17 National Cover Crop Survey. Jt. Publ. Conserv. Technol. Inf. Center, North Cent. Reg. Sustain. Agric. Res. Educ. Program, Am. Seed Trade Assoc. West Lafayette, 146.Google Scholar
Delgado, JA, Dillon, MA, Sparks, RT and Essah, SYC (2007) A decade of advances in cover crops. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 62, 110A117A.Google Scholar
Farahani, HJ, Peterson, GA, Westfall, DG, Sherrod, LA and Ahuja, LR (1998) Soil water storage in dryland cropping systems: the significance of cropping intensification. Soil Science Society of America Journal 62, 984991.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Florence, AM, Higley, LG, Drijber, RA, Francis, CA and Lindquist, JL (2019) Cover crop mixture diversity, biomass productivity, weed suppression, and stability. PLoS One 14, 118.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Frankow-Lindberg, BE, Brophy, C, Collins, RP and Connolly, J (2009) Biodiversity effects on yield and unsown species invasion in a temperate forage ecosystem. Annals of Botany 103, 913921.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Franzluebbers, AJ and Stuedemann, JA (2015) Does grazing of cover crops impact biologically active soil carbon and nitrogen fractions under inversion or no tillage management? Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 70, 365373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hansen, NC, Allen, BL, Baumhardt, RL and Lyon, DJ (2012) Research achievements and adoption of no-till, dryland cropping in the semi-arid U.S. Great Plains. Field Crops Research 132, 196203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hector, A (2006) Overyielding and stable species coexistence. New Phytologist 172, 13.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Hooper, DU and Dukes, JS (2004) Overyielding among plant functional groups in a long-term experiment. Ecology Letters 7, 95105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Hunter, MC, Schipanski, ME, Burgess, MH, LaChance, JC, Bradley, BA, Barbercheck, ME, Kaye, JP and Mortensen, DA (2019) Cover crop mixture effects on maize, soybean, and wheat yield in rotation. Agricultural & Environmental Letters 4, 15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kandel, H and Akyuz, A (2012) Growing degree day model for North Dakota soybean. NDSU Crop Pest Report, North Dakota State Univ. Fargo, ND, USA.Google Scholar
Liebig, MA, Hendrickson, JR, Archer, DW, Schmer, MA and Nichols, KA (2015) Short-term soil responses to late-seeded cover crops in a semi-arid environment. Agronomy Journal 107, 20112019.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Loreau, M and Hector, A (2001) Partitioning selection and complementarity in biodiversity experiments. Nature 412, 7276.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Lyon, DJ, Nielsen, DC, Felter, DG and Burgener, PA (2007) Choice of summer fallow replacement crops impacts subsequent winter wheat. Agronomy Journal 99, 578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Maman, N, Mason, SC, Galusha, T and Clegg, MD (1999) Hybrid and nitrogen influence on pearl millet production in Nebraska: yield, growth, and nitrogen uptake, and nitrogen use efficiency. Agronomy Journal 91, 737743.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Marcillo, GS and Miguez, FE (2017) Corn yield response to winter cover crops: an updated meta-analysis. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 72, 226239.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
McGuire, AM, Bryant, DC and Denison, RF (1998) Wheat yields, nitrogen uptake, and soil moisture following winter legume cover crop vs. fallow. Agronomy Journal 90, 404410.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Miguez, FE and Bollero, GA (2005) Review of corn yield response under winter cover cropping systems using meta-analytic methods. Crop Science 45, 23182329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Miller, P, Lanier, W and Brandt, S (2018) Using Growing Degree Days to Predict Plant Stages, Montana State University Extension Services, MT200103, Ag/Extension Communications Coordinator, Communications Services, Montana State University-Bozeman. Bozeman, MT.Google Scholar
Murrell, EG, Schipanski, ME, Finney, DM, Hunter, MC, Burgess, MH, Lachance, JC, Baraibar, B, White, CM, Mortensen, DA and Kaye, JP (2017) Achieving diverse cover crop mixtures: effects of planting date and seeding rate. Agronomy Journal 109, 259271.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Mutch, DR and Martin, TE (1998) Cover crops. Michigan F. Crop Ecol. Manag. Biol. Process. Product. Environ. Qual, 4453.Google Scholar
NASS (2020) Quick Stats [WWW Document]. Quick Stats, USDA, Natl. Agric. Stat. Serv. Available at (accessed 12.2.20).Google Scholar
Nielsen, DC and Vigil, MF (2005) Legume green fallow effect on soil water content at wheat planting and wheat yield. Agronomy Journal 97, 684689.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Nielsen, DC, Lyon, DJ, Hergert, GW, Higgins, RK, Calderón, FJ and Vigil, M (2015) Cover crop mixtures do not use water differently than single-species plantings. Agronomy Journal 107, 10251038.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
North Dakota Agricultural Weather Network [WWW Document] (2016) NDAWN, North Dakota State Univ. Available at (accessed 8.30.16).Google Scholar
Roth, RT, Ruffatti, MD, O'Rourke, PD and Armstrong, SD (2018) A cost analysis approach to valuing cover crop environmental and nitrogen cycling benefits: a central Illinois on farm case study. Agricultural Systems 159, 6977.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sainju, UM and Singh, B (1997) Winter cover crops for sustainable agricultural systems: influence on soil properties, water quality, and crop yields. HortScience 32, 2128.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Sainju, UM, Whitehead, WF and Singh, BP (2005) Biculture legume-cereal cover crops for enhanced biomass yield and carbon and nitrogen. Agronomy Journal 97, 14031412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
SARE and CTIC (2015) 2014–2015 Cover Crop Survey 45 pages.Google Scholar
Sheoran, RK, Yadava, TP, Niwas, RAM, Chandra, N and Kumar, L (1999) Phenological development in relation to thermal units in sunflower. Cereal Research Communications 27, 427432.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smith, RG, Gross, KL and Robertson, GP (2008) Effects of crop diversity on agroecosystem function: crop yield response. Ecosystems 11, 355366.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smith, RG, Atwood, LW and Warren, ND (2014) Increased productivity of a cover crop mixture is not associated with enhanced agroecosystem services. PLoS One 9, e97351. Scholar
Snapp, SS, Swinton, SM, Labarta, R, Mutch, D, Black, JR, Leep, R and Nyiraneza, J (2005) Evaluating cover crops for benefits, costs and performance within cropping system niches. Agronomy Journal 97, 322332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Teasdale, JR and Abdul-Baki, AA (1998) Comparison of mixtures vs. Monocultures of cover crops for fresh-market tomato production with and without herbicide. HortScience 33, 11631166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tilman, D, Reich, PB, Knops, J, Wedin, D, Mielke, T and Lehman, C (2001) Diversity and productivity in a longterm grassland experiment. Science 294(5543), 843845.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Unger, PW and Vigil, MF (1998) Cover crop effects on soil water relationships. Journal of Soil and Water Conservation 53, 200207.Google Scholar
Wortman, SE, Francis, CA, Bernards, ML, Drijber, RA and Lindquist, JL (2012a) Optimizing cover crop benefits with diverse mixtures and an alternative termination method. Agronomy Journal 104, 14251435.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Wortman, SE, Francis, CA and Lindquist, JL (2012b) Cover crop mixtures for the western corn belt: opportunities for increased productivity and stability. Agronomy Journal 104, 699705.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Supplementary material: File

Hendrickson et al. supplementary material

Hendrickson et al. supplementary material

Download Hendrickson et al. supplementary material(File)
File 16.6 KB