Managing cover crops before corn focus of MU Strip Trial Program

Cover Crop

The University of Missouri Extension is looking for farmers to participate in cover crop trials as part of the “MU Certified” Strip Trial Program.

MU Extension nutrient management specialist John Lory, who leads the program, said this year’s farmer panel approved trials focused on improving the management of cover crops, particularly ahead of corn. “The farmer panel has encouraged us to work with farmers who have success with cover crops so we can learn and document what works,” Lory said.

The strip trial program uses on-farm research to help farmers improve profits and maintain the environment. A local extension person will work with the farmer to layout a trial that works with the farmer’s equipment and provide guidance throughout the trial. Drones will survey fields throughout the year to monitor residue over winter and crop conditions during the growing season. Every fall the program sends the farmer results from their farm and from other trial participants.

Lory seeks farmers who have success with cover crops ahead of corn. The farmer controls all management, including the type of cover crop, seeding rate, planting method and timing, and termination method and timing. This is compared to a no-cover control. The trial tracks the impact of treatment on residue cover and corn yield.

Cover crop management to maximize residue after soybean

This two-year trial tests a strategy to increase residue ahead of soybean as a way to increase residue after soybean. This strategy does not require planting a cover crop directly before corn. Cover crop treatments are established this fall on fields to be planted to soybean and will be tracked through the corn crop in 2022. Participants will use a winter small grain such as cereal rye as the cover crop this fall. The farmer chooses the cover crop termination date, but late termination such as planting soybean “into the green” also is preferred.

Seeding rate of cover crop ahead of corn

This trial considers if cover crop seeding rate affects the amount of residue and corn yield. The farmer chooses the cover crop type and seeding rates and controls all aspects of cover crop management, including how and when to plant and terminate the cover crop.

Long-term cover crop comparison trials

The strip trial program has a history of multiyear trials comparing farmer choices of a cover crop with no-cover controls in corn-soybean rotation for up to four years. This tracks residue cover and yield of grain crops.

The farmer selects the cover crop with preference to include cereal rye in one of the treatments. There can be up to two cover crop treatments. The farmer determines all aspects of cover crop management, including planting method, seeding rate, and termination date. The cover crop is planted in the same strips ahead of corn and ahead of soybean while a no-cover control strip is kept.

Strip trials involve long strips laid out side by side in a field. The on-farm trials compare management practices that are replicated at least five times. MU Extension specialists provide individual consultations to compare treatments on the farmer’s land.

Cover crop trials are only one option supported by the “MU Certified” Strip Trial Program. There are trials to look at sulfur, nitrogen, and potassium response in grain crops, fungicide response in soybeans, and seed treatments in soybean.

MU Extension, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, Missouri Corn Merchandising Council, and Missouri Fertilizer Board fund the “MU Certified” Strip Trial Program.

If interested, contact your local MU Extension agronomist or email [email protected]. For more information, visit