Cover Crops

Sustainable Corn Project research is showing that a winter rye cover crop can be beneficial in wet and dry times. This photo was taken in eastern Iowa, June 2014, by Charles Wittman.
Winter rye at a field test site at Iowa State University, October 2013, by Chad Ingels

Winter cover crops, grown during the fallow season of the corn and soybean crops, can provide many benefits for soil and water quality and crop production. Cover crops may increase the resilience of corn-based cropping systems to weather variability as well as reduce the carbon and nitrogen loss from these cropping systems. The cover crops actively grow and take up nutrients that would otherwise be subject to loss through leaching and surface runoff.  Surface cover provided by cover crops in the spring can reduce soil loss and maintain and build soil quality. 

This project is evaluating rye cover crops in a corn-soybean rotation.


Eastburn, D. "Cover Crops Shown to Suppress Soybean Diseases." Resilient Agriculture. Aug. 2014: 40. Print.
Laws, L. "Cover Crops Produce Benefits in Wet and Dry Times." Resilient Agriculture. Aug. 2014: 16-17. Print.
Laws, L. "Winter Rye Cover Cropping System: A Long Term Investment." Resilient Agriculture. Aug. 2014: 36-37. Print.
O'Neal, M. "Cover Crops Shelter Beneficial and Harmful Insects." Resilient Agriculture. Aug. 2014: 41. Print.

More Resources:

cover crops handout

Speed Science - Cover Crops


Dr. Eileen J. Kladivko, Professor, Purdue University, discusses the potential benefits of cover crops. This presentation was made at this project's 2012 annual meeting.


Midwest Cover Crops Council Selector Tool
Managing Cover Crops Profitably
Cover Crops Following the Summer 2012 Drought
Nutrient Reduction Strategies... Matthew Helmers, associate professor of agriculture and biosystems engineering at Iowa State University, discusses how the Iowa Nutrient Reduction Strategy provides an opportunity for increasing cover crops.
Sustainable Corn YouTube Channel
Cover Crop Selection & Management Parts 1, 2 & 3... Tom Kaspar, National Lab for Agriculture & the Environment, discusses how to select and manage cover crops for corn-based cropping systems in the upper Midwest. Sustainable Corn YouTube Channel
Plot Design Options for On-Farm Cover Crop Trials... Mark Licht, Iowa State University Extension field agronomist, discusses strategies for planning, implementing and testing cover crops. Sustainable Corn YouTube Channel Handout-1, Handout2







We're scientists and farmers working together to create a suite of practices for corn-based systems that:

  • are resilient in times of drought
  • reduce soil and nutrient losses under saturated soil conditions
  • reduce farm field nitrogen losses
  • retain carbon in the soil
  • ensure crop and soil productivity

Sustainable Corn BLOG

Farmers and scientists in the Corn Belt discussing cover crops, weather, tillage, drainage water managment and much more.


Sustainable Corn YouTube Channel

SUSTAINABLECORN.ORG | Website Administrator
This material is based upon work that is supported by the National Institute of Food and
Agriculture, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under award number 2011-68002-30190
Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed on this website are those of the author(s)
and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.