Adoption of pennycress as a cash cover crop not only can have financial benefits for farmers, it can also have ecosystem benefits, including nutrient retention and increased pollinator health and biodiversity. The dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico, which is the second-largest dead zone globally, has been attributed to nitrogen inputs from agriculture in Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio. Both surface and subsurface drainage modifications bypass traditional mitigation efforts. Further, insect pollinators are negatively affected by modern agriculture monocultures of self- or wind-pollinated crops that are poor food sources. Pollinator access to food resources is essential in spring when nest-building, egg-laying, and brood-rearing are initiated. Pennycress as a cover crop can provide these and other ecosystem services that other cover crops do not.
Assessing SCN Development Potential
Soybean cyst nematode (SCN, Heterodera glycines) is species of concern for soybean producers throughout the Midwest as high populations can reduce soybean yields. Currently, the bi-annual rotation of soybean with non-host corn helps control SCN population density, but the addition of pennycress into this rotation is a concern for the IPREFER project. The IPREFER project is assessing the development potential of SCN on pennycress in field trials in Minnesota and southern Illinois. Preliminary data suggest that SCN can reproduce on pennycress in controlled-environment settings, but the potential for SCN to reproduce under field conditions is limited due to temperature constraints of pennycress’ winter-annual life cycle. Preliminary field data suggests no detectable effect of including pennycress in a corn-soybean rotation on SCN population density.