Legume cover crops reduce poultry litter application requirements in organic systems

Victoria J. Ackroyd, Michel A. Cavigelli, John T. Spargo, Brian Davis, Grace Garst, Steven B. Mirsky

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


Organic farmers are challenged by increasing soil P levels resulting from the use of manure to meet cash crop N needs. The use of a legume cover crop may address this challenge. In a 2-yr study at three organic production sites in Maryland, we examined the combination of a winter annual legume cover crop (hairy vetch, crimson clover, Austrian winter pea, and a no-cover control) at three poultry litter (PL) application rates (to meet the N requirement of corn, to replace P removed by corn grain harvest, and a no-PL control). Cover crop biomass varied by site and by year, ranging from about 600 to 6100 kg ha–1 for crimson clover. Cover crop N accumulation ranged from 15 to 169 kg N ha–1. Corn yields, which ranged from 2.9 to 14.2 Mg ha–1, tended to be lowest in the control (0 PL) no-cover treatments and similar in the N-based and P-based treatments irrespective of the cover crop species. These results indicate that when legume cover crops are used, PL can be applied at a P-replacement rate on sites with a history of PL application to meet crop production and environmental stewardship goals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2361-2369
Number of pages9
JournalAgronomy Journal
Issue number5
StatePublished - Sep 1 2019

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agronomy and Crop Science


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