Spring Cover Crop Biomass Sampling

As part of the ILF cover crops research, we have been busy installing lysimeters and we have also been collecting cover crop biomass samples. Given the harsh winter weather and cool spring, the cover crop growth was spotty across the state this spring.  Where the cover crops managed to survive, the cereal rye is the only one to successfully overwinter this year within the mixture plots.

Below are some photos taken during the biomass sampling process Friday, May 9th at the Sutherland Research Farm in Northwest Iowa.

20140509_121659Cereal rye overwintered as part of a three species mixture: rye, rapeseed, and radish

20140509_121707Single species plot – cereal rye

20140509_124046Step 1: Biomass sampling frame is tossed at random within the plot and using scissors, the rye biomass (plant material) is clipped close to the ground and placed in a paper bag.
This is done twice per plot.

20140509_124531Step 2:  The two sample bags per plot are then used to estimate the pounds per acre biomass of the cover crop for the entire plot.
Step 3: Back in the lab, the rye is dried and weighed to calculate the pounds per acre.

The aboveground biomass is as important as what’s growing underneath the surface. The rye (or other cover crop) covering the soil reduces the impact of energy when a raindrop falls on the land. By hitting the biomass first, the force of the rain is lessened and allows the water to infiltrate the soil gently.

Liz Juchems

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