Evaluation of Grass and Legume Species as Perennial Ground Covers in Corn Production
Corn (Zea mays L.) stover has been identified as an important feedstock for biofuel production but its removal will likely increase soil erosion. To address this issue 35 species of grasses and legumes were evaluated as potential perennial ground covers (PGCs) in corn. Selection of species encompassed both C3 and C4 species with a wide range of developmental and morphological features. The objectives were to (i) identify species that could support a high level of corn production while requiring minimal management and (ii) identify morphological traits and growth habits of suitable entries as PGC. Over the 3-yr study period species with slow growing and spreading habits were more conducive to corn production, even though these PGCs still caused an average 23% reduction in corn grain yield. Meadow fescue (Festuca pratensis Huds.), sheep fescue (Festuca ovina L.), Canada bluegrass (Poa compressa L.), fowl bluegrass (Poa palustris L.), and colonial bentgrass (Agrostis capillaris L.) were identified as suitable PGC species. These species were generally shorter and slower to spread into the corn rows compared with other, more aggressive species. Based on these observations an ideotype for future PGC species should be low growing, clump forming, and shade tolerant and have delayed green-up in the spring.
This article is published as Flynn, E. Scott, Kenneth J. Moore, Jeremy W. Singer, and Kendall R. Lamkey. "Evaluation of grass and legume species as perennial ground covers in corn production." Crop Science 53, no. 2 (2013): 611-620. doi: 10.2135/cropsci2011.06.0306. Posted with permission.