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Timing of Cover Crop Termination: Management Considerations for the Southeast

Kipling S. Balkcom, Leah M. Duzy, Ted S. Kornecki, Andrew J. Price
Crop, forage & turfgrass management 2015 v.1 no.1 pp. -
arid lands, cash crops, conservation tillage, cover crops, crop production, equipment, growers, growing season, nitrogen, plant establishment, planting date, risk, soil quality, soil temperature, soil water, weeds, Southeastern United States
Conservation tillage combined with high-residue cover crops make up the two components that define a conservation system designed to increase productivity and improve soil quality. Cover crops are an important part of these systems that maintain and/or improve soil quality. The proper timing of cover crop termination is one important management consideration growers must consider on a site- and situation-specific basis when adopting a conservation system. Cover crops terminated too early in the season diminish associated soil quality and crop production benefits, while delaying termination until closer to cash crop planting dates maximizes soil quality and crop production benefits. However, delaying termination increases risk associated with crop emergence, particularly in dryland conditions. Management considerations that include the cover crop growing season, soil moisture, soil temperature, nitrogen (N) management, alleopathy/weed suppressive potential, and equipment each affect timing of cover crop termination. Growers that consider each of these management considerations with respect to timing of cover crop termination can successfully use cover crops to enhance crop productivity while minimizing risk to cash crop establishment.