Wortman Research Cover Crops

Cover crops, typically planted during fallow periods between cash crop cycles, are a valuable conservation tool. Among other benefits, cover crops can increase soil organic matter and biological activity, suppress pests, and mitigate nitrogen leaching. Unfortunately, there are a number of barriers to limiting farmer adoption of cover crops, including the cost of seed and challenges of timely planting and successful cover crop establishment. To address these common barriers, we are conducting research to: 1) quantify the ecosystem services provided by individual cover crop species in monoculture and mixture relative to the cost of seed; and 2) develop new cover crop seed technologies and seeding strategies to reduce labor during peak seasons and improve cover crop establishment.

Funding sources: The Ceres Trust Organic Research Initiative

Collaborators: University of Illinois at Urbana – Champaign, USDA-ARS National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research (Peoria, IL), and Global Change and Photosynthesis Research Unit (Urbana, IL)

Cover Crops
Cereal rye inter-seeded in corn.

Related Publications

  • Lucadamo, E., A. Holmes, S.E. Wortman, and A. Yannarell. 2022. Post-termination effects of cover crop monocultures and mixtures on soil inorganic nitrogen and microbial communities on two organic farms in Illinois. Frontiers in Soil Science. https://doi.org/10.3389/fsoil.2022.824087
  • Holmes, A. A., A. A. Thompson, S. T. Lovell, M. Villamil, A. C. Yannarell, J. O. Dawson, and S. E. Wortman. 2019. Nitrogen provisioned and recycled by cover crops in monoculture and mixture across two organic farms. Nutrient Cycling in Agroecosystems 115:441-453. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10705-019-10024-1
  • Wortman, S. E. 2019. Field pennycress (Thlaspi arvense L.) has potential as an interseeded cover crop. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems. https://doi.org/10.1017/S1742170519000231
  • Crawford, L. E., M. M. Williams II, and S. E. Wortman, S. E. 2018. An early-killed rye (Secale cereale) cover crop has potential for weed management in edamame (Glycine max). Weed Science 66:502-507.
  • Holmes, A. A., A. A. Thompson, and S. E. Wortman. 2017. Species-specific contributions to community productivity and weed suppression in cover crop mixtures. Agronomy Journal 109:1-12.
  • Wortman, S. E. 2016. Weedy fallow as an alternative strategy for reducing nitrogen loss from annual cropping systems. Agronomy for Sustainable Development 36:61.
  • Wortman, S. E., and J. O. Dawson. 2015. Nitrogenase activity and nodule biomass of cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp.) decrease in cover crop mixtures. Communications in Soil Science and Plant Analysis 46:1443-1457.
  • Wortman, S. E., J. J. Schmidt, and J. L. Lindquist. 2014. Weed suppressive potential of sudangrass is driven by interactions of root exudates and decomposing shoot residue. Crop Management 13: DOI 10.2134/CM-2013-0037-RS.
  • Wortman, S. E., R. A. Drijber, C. A. Francis, and J. L. Lindquist. 2013. Arable weeds, cover crops, and tillage drive soil microbial community composition in organic cropping systems. Applied Soil Ecology 72:232-241.
  • Wortman, S. E., C. A. Francis, M. A. Bernards, E. E. Blankenship, and J. L. Lindquist. 2013. Mechanical termination of diverse cover crop mixtures for improved weed suppression in organic cropping systems. Weed Science 61:162-170.
  • Wortman, S. E., C. A. Francis, M. Bernards, R. Drijber, and J. L. Lindquist. 2012. Optimizing cover crop benefits with diverse mixtures and an alternative termination method. Agronomy Journal 104:1425-1435.
  • Wortman, S. E., C. A. Francis, and J. L. Lindquist. 2012. Cover crop mixtures for the Western Corn Belt: Opportunities for increased productivity and stability. Agronomy Journal 104:699-705.