Cover Crop Biomass Calculator Available for Nebraska | Harvests

Growers can now estimate the biomass, water use and nitrogen uptake of cereal rye – one of the most common cover crop species in the United States – using the new calculator cover crop biomass. (Photo from UNL CropWatch file.)

Maximizing cover crop growth between fall harvest and spring planting remains a challenge for Nebraska corn and soybean growers. In a 2017 investigationgrowers in the state reported that their biggest challenge was planting and establishing cover crops before winter.

Nationally, many are reporting that this window of winter weather is too limited to achieve sufficient cover crop growth to justify the associated cost and labor. Additionally, given the wide range of weather conditions encountered in the state over the fall, winter, and spring, we cannot expect to see the same growth in cover crops a year. to the other.

A new predictive tool developed by a team from the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln covers crop growth with different planting and termination times in the state of Nebraska. The predictions are based on a model called the Farming Systems Simulator, which was carefully set up to represent cereal rye growth at different planting times in Nebraska soils and climates (this work was published in Agronomy Journal in 2020).

The goal of the Biomass Calculator is to provide growers, researchers, and other agricultural professionals with realistic, data-driven predictions to meet the challenges presented during the winter growing season. The tool can help answer questions such as “how would biomass change if I planted earlier or finished later?” or “how much will crop growth change from year to year depending on weather conditions?” This can help you decide which planting windows are best for your environment and adjust management to meet cover crop biomass goals.

This project was a collaboration between researchers from the Department of Agronomy and Horticulture at UNL, farmers in Nebraska, and the Holland Computing Center at UNL.

Eleanor C. William