Jeremy Singer, collaborator and assistant professor at the National Laboratory for Agriculture and the Environment, says that he also sees a lot of potential.
"The bottom line is that with our best treatment, all three years we found yields in the control and yields in the Kentucky bluegrass with herbicide suppression and fall strip till were not different, which is very exciting," he said.
One focus of the research was to measure if cover crops help replace carbon in the soil that would be lost as stover is removed.
Using his own findings and examining previous research, Singer estimates that the Kentucky bluegrass treatment likely replaces as much carbon in the soil as stover would have, although he concedes that it is difficult to measure precisely.
And, the cover crops also provide at least 85 percent ground cover, meaning only 15 percent of the soil is exposed and susceptible to erosion, he said.
The cover crops also provide weed and insect suppression during the corn growing season, according to researchers.
To reduce competition between corn and Kentucky bluegrass, Moore said bluegrass needs to be chemically treated in the spring to force it into dormancy while the corn gets started.
Generally the two species co-exist well, said Moore.
"Growing two (or more) plants in one field is not a new idea. Ecosystems have been doing it for millennia," he said.
Prior to the Midwest becoming an agricultural powerhouse, the land supported many different species of plant -- each performing different functions for the soil and water quality. Now, we have just a few plant species dominating the landscape, each performing just one function, said Moore.
"In this study," Moore said, "we are trying to put those functions into a simple, easy-to-manage system that can have positive environmental impacts."
Source: Iowa State University