Establishing cover crops in a corn (Zea mays L.)–soybean (Glycine max L.) rotation in northern climates can be difficult due to the short time between harvest and freezing temperatures. Aerial seeding into standing crops is one way to increase the time for germination and growth. Field studies were conducted to characterize the physical and chemical properties that affect winter rye (Secale cereale L.) establishment in corn and soybean, while a germination experiment was designed to determine optimal temperature and surface soil moisture content needed for successful germination. In the field study, 31 field-scale sites (22 corn and nine soybean) were aerially seeded in southeastern Minnesota during late August to early September 2009, 2010, and 2011. Aboveground biomass was collected before the ground froze, and multiple regression analysis was used to relate biomass to multiple soil and weather conditions. Total N uptake also was determined. Overall, precipitation the week after seeding was the most important factor in determining rye establishment, although our model accounted for only 43% of the variation in biomass. The germination study characterized winter rye germination on the surface of three different soils equilibrated to –50, –200, and –500 kPa water potential placed in three low-temperature incubators at 10, 18, and 25°C. Total germination was decreased by decreasing water potential in the sandy loam but not the clay or silt loam, suggesting that moisture content may be more important than water potential at the soil surface. Generally, germination was drastically reduced below a moisture content of 0.083 g g–1.
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Minnesota Water Research Digital Library
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