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Effects of cover crops on edge-of-field water runoff in the mid-south
Proceedings of the 2020 Mississippi Water Resources Conference
Year: 2020 Authors: Lucore A., Baker B., Aldridge C.
Efforts to reduce nutrient transport from agricultural landscapes has led to research and implementation of numerous conservation practices. Cover crops have been widely documented in certain regions of the country, primarily the Midwest, to provide water quality, soil health, and wildlife benefits to the environment, as well as to the agricultural system in the form of weed and pest suppression. A lesser body of research exists in the mid-south, particularly in respect to water quality where the bulk of the research refers to the benefits to soil and soil structure while the effects on water quality are ancillary. This study investigated the effects of cover crops on runoff in row-crop production systems. This study was conducted on a working farm located in Tippah County, Mississippi, where six plots (0.7–6.5 ha [1.8–16.1 ac]) served as treatments and controls. Four plots were randomly selected and planted with cover crops and the remaining two plots served as controls, all plots had been under no-till for 20+ years. Water quality was monitored via automated storm-based sampling at all locations for two years prior to cover crop implementation at the treatment sites (2014-2015) and for four years post cover crop implementation (2016-2019). Water samples were analyzed for nitrate-nitrite, total nitrogen, orthophosphorous, total phosphorous, and total suspended solids within 48 hours of sample collection. Data analysis indicated reductions among all analytes besides orthophosphorous with nitrate-nitrite concentrations being the most pronounced reduction. Additionally, there was considerable variability amongst season, cover crop type, and cash crop species.