Diversification of silage maize cultivation by using winter cover crops enabled by ultra-early maize varieties
Continuous monocropping of silage maize is associated with non-intended impacts on production levels and the environment, such as decreasing soil quality, pressure on biodiversity and ground water quality and increasing GHG-emissions.
To counteract these impacts, cover crops are grown in the winter, as a break crop between two maize crops. Using ultra-early maize varieties ensures that these winter crops have more time to grow and increases their positive effects for example to soil quality.
Cover crops have the potential to fix remaining nitrogen from the soil, which can then be released to the soil in the next growing season (Riemens et al., 2017). Past research showed that the cultivation of a winter-hardy cover crop after silage maize reduced nitrate leaching up to 60% (Schröder et al., 1992).