Effect of intercropping period management on runoff and erosion in a maize cropping system

J Environ Qual. 2010 Apr 13;39(3):1001-8. doi: 10.2134/jeq2009.0239. Print May-Jun 2010.


The management of winter cover crops is likely to influence their performance in reducing runoff and erosion during the intercropping period that precedes spring crops but also during the subsequent spring crop. This study investigated the impact of two dates of destruction and burial of a rye (Secale cereale L.) and ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum Lam.) cover crop on runoff and erosion, focusing on a continuous silage maize (Zea mays L.) cropping system. Thirty erosion plots with various intercrop management options were monitored for 3 yr at two sites. During the intercropping period, cover crops reduced runoff and erosion by more than 94% compared with untilled, post-maize harvest plots. Rough tillage after maize harvest proved equally effective as a late sown cover crop. There was no effect of cover crop destruction and burial dates on runoff and erosion during the intercropping period, probably because rough tillage for cover crop burial compensates for the lack of soil cover. During two of the monitored maize seasons, it was observed that plots that had been covered during the previous intercropping period lost 40 to 90% less soil compared with maize plots that had been left bare during the intercropping period. The burial of an aboveground cover crop biomass in excess of 1.5 t ha(-1) was a necessary, yet not always sufficient, condition to induce a residual effect. Because of the possible beneficial residual effect of cover crop burial on erosion reduction, the sowing of a cover crop should be preferred over rough tillage after maize harvest.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Agriculture / methods*
  • Conservation of Natural Resources*
  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Rain
  • Seasons
  • Time Factors
  • Water / chemistry*
  • Water Movements*
  • Water Pollution / prevention & control
  • Zea mays / physiology*


  • Water