A University of Nebraska–Lincoln project studying several cover crop mixes and 16 individual species and their impact on soil quality variables has received a $153,026 grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.
The project is led by Suat Irmak, Harold W. Eberhard Distinguished Professor.
Cover cropping in row crops has been suggested as a favorable conservation practice in improving soil chemical and physical characteristics. However, the magnitude of the impacts of cover crops on soil-water dynamics (i.e., soil-water storage) and soil quality (including hydraulic properties) can exhibit significant variation between the counties; cover crop species; soil textural; chemical and physical properties; management practices and climatic conditions. Furthermore, these impacts can vary when the cover crops are planted with individual species compared to mixed forms, Irmak said.
In Nebraska, Irmak said, there is a significant lack of information and scientific and research-based data related to the practice of cover cropping, which is an impediment to its adoption and hampers efforts to accurately determine the impacts of individual and mixed cover crops species on soil-water and soil quality, as well as soil hydraulic properties. Quantification of cover crop water use can also aid in local and regional water-balance analyses, projections, planning and allocations that can result in more robust water balance determinations on a statewide and regional basis, but these kinds of data and information do not currently exist. This project will quantify and demonstrate the water use in all 93 counties and impact of individual and mixed cover crops species on soil quality parameters in corn-cover crop/soybean-cover crop rotations.
The project is one of 118 receiving an NET grant this year – altogether, the awards total $20 million. Of these, 73 were new applications and 45 are carry-over projects.
The Nebraska Legislature created the NET in 1992. Using revenue from the Nebraska Lottery, the trust has provided more than $328 million in grants to more than 2,300 projects across the state. Anyone – citizens, organizations, communities, farmers and businesses – can apply for funding to protect habitat, improve water quality and establish recycling programs in Nebraska. The NET works to preserve, protect and restore the state’s natural resources for future generations.