Rotary zone tillage improves corn establishment in a kura clover living mulch

Michelle Dobbratz, John M. Baker, Julie Grossman, M. Scott Wells, Peyton Ginakes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Kura clover (Trifolium ambiguum Bieb.) perennial living mulch is a farming practice designed to pair water quality services and row crop production. In this system, rows are mechanically or chemically killed within a perennial kura clover stand to create a suitable environment for planting a crop. However, yields are often reduced relative to conventional, fully-tilled systems. This hypothesis was tested by using a novel rotary zone tillage unit (RZT) that creates 45 cm wide tilled strips with a depth of 8 cm for each row, with rows spaced 76 cm apart. We compared RZT to three row preparation strategies that have been commonly used in living mulch systems: herbicide band kill (BK), and shank tillage (ST), also known as strip tillage. Shank tillage produced bands that were 40 cm wide and 5 cm deep. We monitored kura clover health, soil moisture & temperature, corn (Zea mays L.) emergence, corn development, and corn yield in all three row preparation strategies over two growing seasons. In 2015, corn grown in RZT plots emerged and developed faster than corn grown in ST plots, but this did not lead to a difference in grain or stover yield. However, in 2016, corn grown in RZT plots not only emerged and developed faster, but also produced 4.0 Mg ha −1 more grain and 3.5 Mg ha −1 more stover biomass than corn grown in ST and BK plots. Kura clover biomass was not affected by treatment in either year. We conclude that rotary zone tillage is a promising row preparation strategy in kura clover living mulch for corn production with minimal herbicide use.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)229-235
Number of pages7
JournalSoil and Tillage Research
StatePublished - Jun 2019


  • Band kill
  • Conservation tillage
  • Corn
  • Emergence
  • Kura clover
  • Living muchm
  • Maize
  • Novel tillage
  • Operating costs
  • Perennial
  • Perennial living mulch
  • Soil moisture
  • Soil temperature
  • Trifolium intermedium
  • Vegetative development
  • Zone tillage

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