Pennycress as a cash cover-crop: Improving the sustainability of sweet corn production systems

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Commercial sweet corn (Zea mays convar. saccharata var. rugosa) production has a proportionally high potential for nutrient loss to waterways, due to its high nitrogen (N) requirements and low N use efficiency. Cover crops planted after sweet corn can help ameliorate N lost from the field, but farmers are reluctant to utilize cover crops due to a lack of economic incentive. Pennycress (Thlaspi arvense L.) is a winter annual that can provide both economic and environmental benefits. Five N-rates (0, 65, 135, 135 split and 200) were applied pre-plant to sweet corn. After the sweet corn harvest, pennycress was planted into the sweet corn residue with two seeding methods and harvested for seed the following spring. Residual inorganic soil N (Nmin), pennycress biomass, biomass N and yield were measured. The nitrogen rate and seeding method had no effect on pennycress yield, biomass, or biomass N content. The nitrogen rate positively affected Nmin at pennycress seeding, wherein 200N plots had 38–80% higher Nmin than 0N plots, but had no effect on Nmin at pennycress harvest. Control treatments without pennycress had an average of 27–42% greater Nmin. In conclusion, pennycress can act as an effective N catch crop, and produce an adequate seed yield after sweet corn without the need for supplemental fertilization.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number614
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding: This research was funded by University of Minnesota Forever Green Agricultural Initiative.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 by the authors.


  • Cover crop
  • Nitrogen management
  • Thlaspi arvense L
  • Zea mays convar. saccharata var. rugosa


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