Living Mulch

 Knowledge Nuggets | Fact Sheets | Research Papers
Knowledge Nuggets
  • A living mulch is a form of intercropping. It can be thought of as an extension of cover cropping in which an annual grain crop is seeded into a permanent secondary crop.
  • The living mulch crop can be an annual or perennial. In most cases forage legumes are used.
  • Perennial forage legumes being investigated for use as living mulches include kura clover, white clover, red clover, crownvetch, birdsfoot trefoil and alfalfa.
  • The grain crop can be seeded at the same time as the legume living mulch crop, or it can be seeded into an established perennial forage stand.
  • In a successful system, the living mulch has to be suppressed before seeding the grain crop. This reduces competition between the established living mulch and the new grain crop seedlings.
  • The legume living mulch can be suppressed with heavy grazing, mowing or a herbicide application.
  • Legume living mulch crops supply the grain crop with nitrogen, decrease soil erosion, increase water infiltration, increase soil organic matter, and improve soil structure and health.
  • Legume living mulches also suppress weeds and can help decrease disease pressure.
  • After the grain crop is harvested, the regrowth of the legume living mulch can be grazed or harvested as hay in the fall.
  • Drawbacks to using a legume living mulch include competition aboveground between the two crops for light, competition below the ground for nutrients and water, and potentially lower grain yields.
Fact Sheets

Kura Clover Living Mulch System

Legume Living Mulches in Corn and Soybean - available in PDF format only

Soil and Production Enhancing Cover Crop and Living Mulch Systems - available in PDF format only

Research Papers

Barley and Triticale Underseeded with a Kura Clover Living Mulch: Effects on Weed Pressure, Disease Incidence, Silage Yield and Forage Quality - available in PDF format only

Corn Production with Kura Clover as a Living Mulch - available in PDF format only

Intercropping Corn and Kura Clover: Response to Nitrogen Fertilization - available in PDF format only

Integrating Herbicide-Resistant Corn Technology in a Kura Clover Living Mulch System - available in PDF format only

Spring Yield and Silage Characteristics of Kura Clover, Winter Wheat, and in Mixtures - available in PDF format only
  For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This document is maintained by Janet Fletcher.
This information published to the web on April 20, 2012.
Last Reviewed/Revised on March 2, 2017.

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