Missouri Strip Trial Program Provides Key Insights Into Cover Crops’ Impact on Corn/Soybean Rotation

The Missouri Strip Trial program had its beginnings in 2016 in response to Missouri grower questions concerning the use of cover crops in their crop rotations. Producers were curious about cover crop stand establishment, species to use, spring termination strategies and the impact cover crops have on cash crop yield.

These producer questions spurred initial strip trials where cover crops were incorporated into producer fields in order to compare:

  • Cereal rye, winter wheat and a no cover control in a corn/soybean rotation (some of these plots now on their fifth continuous year in the program)
  • Cover crop termination timing

Data collected from these trials has included:

  • Cover crop establishment and growth in the fall and spring prior to termination using drone imagery
  • Cash crop response during the growing season using drone imagery
  • Yield data using producer combine and yield monitor
  • Soybean cyst nematode (SCN) sampling on longer-term trials to measure cover crops effect on SCN

Initial results from the cover crop trials have shown that soybeans are more adaptable to cover crops than corn with producers becoming comfortable with planting soybeans “green” into a cover crop. Early corn yields at some sites had up to a 15 bu. yield reduction following cereal rye, however more recently the yield reduction may be minimized due to improved producer management skills and multiple years of using cover crops.


The use of winter wheat at these same sites shows that its effect on corn yield was less than that of cereal rye. Producers are also reporting a change in weed pressure when using cereal rye prior to soybeans with a reduction in species such as marestail and waterhemp.

With the results of these initial trials, the program will be adding a third cover crop trial in the fall of 2020 to look at the comparison of soybeans planted “green” into cereal rye and a no cover control. This trial will look at how this high carbon residue will affect the following year’s corn crop and the longevity of the residue in the following corn crop to provide erosion control. Also, weed pressure will be monitored the first year during the soybean crop in addition to collecting cash crop yield.

Today the Missouri Strip Trial program has secured additional funding to do trials related to:

  • Nitrogen management in corn and wheat
  • Potash response trials
  • Soybean seed treatment and its effect on yield
  • Fungicide application in soybeans

The overall goals of the Missouri Strip Trial program are to:

  • Be farmer-led and focused
  • Implement applied on-farm research using farm sized equipment
  • Result in practical information and results for farmers
  • Maintain/Improve grower profitability
  • Improve environmental stewardship and sustainability

Additional information on the Missouri Strip trial program can be found at https://extension.missouri.edu/programs/strip-trial-program/strip-trial-about

Charles Ellis, Field Specialist in Agricultural Engineering, University of Missouri Extension 

Charles Ellis is a field specialist in agricultural engineering with the University of Missouri Extension.  Through his work, Ellis builds relationships with producers, refines trial protocols, plot layout,  in-season scouting, yield data collection and data transfer. He works primarily with crop producers on a individual basis to collect yield data, guidance systems and operation, data transfer and analysis, and equipment selection. He also serves as the Missouri representative to the Midwest Cover Crops Council where he serves on the executive board.




Cover Photo Courtesy of the University of Missouri Strip Trial Program

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