Temperature-based prediction of harvest date in winter and spring cereals as a basis for assessing viability for growing cover crops

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Cover crops are an important component of sustainable cereal cropping systems by providing nutrient retention and improving soil quality. However, the successful establishment and growth of cover crops depend on a timely harvest of the preceding annual crops. To assess the viability of growing cover crops in Denmark, a phenology model was developed, calibrated, cross-validated and applied to predict the harvest date of spring barley and winter wheat in Denmark using data from field experiments in Denmark during 1991 to 2018. A simple phenology model was used for the period from sowing to maturity, and this was extended to simulate the duration from maturity to harvest. This extended model was used to predict the harvest date in the ongoing season, and it provides the capability for assessing the performance of cover crops as a basis for improved cover crop management. The model uses temperature sums and day length to calculate the developmental rate of spring barley from sowing to harvest and for winter wheat from 1st January to harvest. The standard deviation of the estimated harvest date based on the uncertainty of the model parameters was 10-14 days and 1-4 days for spring barley and winter wheat, respectively. The model was evaluated using historically recorded temperature data (20 years, 1999–2018) to simulate harvest date, which was within the range of observed harvest dates. The interannual range of estimated harvest dates is 7–10 days for spring barley and 5–10 days for winter wheat. This interannual variation of harvest date was lower than the spatial variation across the country. The model can be used for forecasting cereal harvest time and thus readiness for autumn field operations, including the establishment of cover crops. Simulations of growing degree days from date of harvest to 1 November shows that cover crops can be reliably established in southern parts of Denmark to ensure low nitrate leaching. Advancing the harvest date to the date of physiological maturity of the cereals would allow the establishment of efficient cover crops in all years in the entire country.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108085
JournalField Crops Research
Publication statusPublished - 1 May 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was conducted as part of the policy support for the Ministry of Environment and Food of Denmark. The data from the field experiments under the agricultural advisory services was kindly provided by Jon Birger Pedersen, SEGES. The authors also want to thank the Associate Editor Enli Wang and the two anonymous reviewers for their useful suggestions and comments.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Elsevier B.V.

Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

    Research areas

  • Cereals, Cover crops, Crop development, Harvest date, Phenology

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