Influence of Cover Crop Termination Timing on its Volunteers and Weed Suppression

TR Number



Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title


Virginia Tech


Cover crops are widely planted in the mid-Atlantic region for their environmental and agronomic benefits, but incomplete or delayed termination can lead to cover crops becoming weeds in the subsequent cash crop, known as volunteers. Studies were conducted from 2020-2022 to evaluate the effect of four commonly grown cover crop species, winter wheat (Triticum aestivum L.), cereal rye (Secale cereal L.), hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth), and rapeseed (Brassica napus L.), and four termination timings; 28, 14, 5, and 1 days before corn planting (DBP). Results indicated volunteerism was only an issue with rapeseed. Delaying rapeseed termination resulted in 0, 5, 12, and 22 volunteer plants m-2 at 28, 14, 5, and 1 DBP in corn. In order to manage these rapeseed volunteers, herbicide evaluations were conducted and indicated that atrazine, isoxaflutole, metribuzin, and pyroxasulfone resulted in 92-94% control when applied preemergence. Similarly, atrazine and glyphosate provided 99% rapeseed control and glufosinate resulted in 89% control when applied postemergence. Therefore, volunteers can easily be controlled with commonly used herbicides in corn. Studies were also conducted to evaluate the benefits of these cover crops, which have the potential to overcome the aforementioned risks. Results indicate that hairy vetch produced the most biomass and provided greater control of summer annual grasses, small-seeded broadleaf and large-seeded broadleaf weeds than other cover crops. Biomass accumulation and extent of weed control increased with delaying cover crop termination. Corn yield was greatest following hairy vetch and was least in rapeseed plots. Termination of cover crops 14 DBP planting increased corn yield by 12%; whereas termination at 1 DBP decreased corn yield by 15% as compared to no cover crop-no till plots. Effective termination of cover crops is an important management consideration and information on termination efficiency can help in devising management plans. In order to assist managers by evaluating cover crop termination efficiency, studies were conducted to evaluate selective and non-selective herbicides and a roller crimper for correlating vegetative indices with visible termination efficiency. Among vegetative indices, the Green Leaf Index had the highest Pearson correlation coefficient for wheat (r = -0.79, p = <0.0001) and cereal rye (r = -0.80, p = <0.0001) with visible termination efficiency. Whereas, for rapeseed, Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) had the highest correlation coefficient (r = -0.66, p = <0.0001). However, for hairy vetch none of the vegetative indices correlated significantly with visible termination efficiency. While further research is necessary, remote sensing technologies may help in devising management plans by increasing crop scouting efficiency.



biomass accumulation, corn yield, roller-crimper, unmanned aerial system, vegetation indices, volunteer rapeseed