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The Center for Native Grasslands Management

Title: Using native little barley as a cover crop
Year: 2005
Author(s): Grabowski, J. M., Douglas, J. L., Parkman, J. S., Johnson, J. R.
Source Title: Proceedings of the 4th Eastern Native Grass Symposium
Source Type: Proceedings
pages: 20-29
Original Publication:  
Abstract: Little barley (Hordeum pusillum Nutt.) is a native, annual, cool-season grass that can form dense colonies in some cropland fields in the southeastern United States that are no-tilled or given minimum tillage in the fall. In such areas, little barley functions as a naturally occurring cover crop that does not require reseeding like conventional cover crops such as wheat (Triticum aestivum L.). Several NRCS and university agronomists have expressed an interest in developing methods to either manage natural stands of little barley or produce commercial sources of little barley that can be planted as cover crops. We initiated two studies in 2002 at the Jamie L. Whitten Plant Materials Center (PMC), Coffeeville, Mississippi, to evaluate the cover crop potential and management requirements of little barley. In the first study, we compared its ground cover and biomass production to wheat, crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum L.), and hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth) planted at their recommended cover crop rates (101, 22, and 34 kg ha-1, respectively). Little barley provided close to 95% cover during the winter and early spring, the most of all species tested; however, a considerable amount of seed (807 seeds m-2)was planted to ensure a sufficient stand for testing. Additional research is needed to determine optimum planting rates for little barley. Hairy vetch provided little cover during the winter, but cover increased to more than 95% before the target burndown date of April 15. The other two species provided intermediate ground cover ratings during the winter. In 2003, biomass yields were highest for little barley and crimson clover, but in 2004, dry matter yields of wheat were highest. The second study examined the burndown requirements of little barley. Conventional recommendations are to use either 1.12 kg a.i. ha-1 of either glyphosate or paraquat to burn down grass cover crops before planting. We wanted to determine if these rates could be reduced to 0.84, 0.56, and 0.28 kg ai ha-1 and still provide control of little barley. Glyphosate rates when reduced to 0.5 kg a.i. ha-1 provided adequate burndown of little barley, with a visual rating of more than 80% dead plants at 14 days after treatment. The rate of paraquat could not be decreased below 0.84 kg a.i. ha-1 and still provide a comparable level of burndown.