Winner, Second Place
Empty farm fields are a common sight in Illinois during the winter and contribute to environmental issues such as soil erosion and nutrient loss. Although cover crops can mitigate these effects, they are not widely used due to lack of direct economic return. Pennycress is a new cover crop that produces a marketable oilseed, which could incentivize more widespread cover crop use. Unfortunately, field conditions after corn harvest are challenging for pennycress growth. This image illustrates the visual contrast between full pennycress growth and limited pennycress growth due to the presence of leftover corn residue. My research evaluates management strategies that may improve pennycress growth such as breaking up leftover corn crop residues and using early-maturing corn hybrids. The successful implementation of pennycress into the current cropping system could lessen the environmental impact of agriculture, help source renewable fuels, and provide additional income for farmers.
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