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Phenolic acids released to soil during cereal rye cover crop decomposition

  • Briana A. Otte
  • Clifford P. Rice
  • Brian W. Davis
  • Harry H. Schomberg
  • Steven B. Mirsky
  • Katherine L. TullyEmail author
Original Article


Cereal rye (Secale cereale) cover crops supply many agroecosystem services in cropping systems including the provision of allelochemicals for weed suppression. Understanding the distinction between root and shoot relative contributions of these allelochemicals (such as phenolic acids) should provide better insight for residue management following termination of a cereal rye cover crop. A field experiment examining root and shoot contributions of phenolic acids to soil was conducted in 2015 at Beltsville, Maryland. Tissue and soil (0–10 cm) phenolic acid concentrations were analyzed over time using liquid chromatography–mass spectrometry. Cereal rye roots were found to be the primary contributor of phenolic acids to soil. Further, soil phenolic acid concentrations were unaffected by tillage or soil depth. Overall, the phenolic acid concentrations of coumaric > vanillic > 4-hydroxybenzoic acid increased in soils during the first 3–7 days after cereal rye termination and then decreased to initial concentrations after 56 days. Our research forms a basis for future allelopathy research. Specifically, there is a need to understand the contribution of roots to phenolic acid release in soils. Building this body of knowledge will improve our ability to employ allelopathy as part of a multi-tactic weed management system.


Allelopathy Cereal rye Phenolic acids Cover crops Tillage 



Days after cereal rye termination



We would like to thank Matt Kramer, Ruth Mangum, and the rest of the technical crew, staff, and student interns at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center. This research was supported by United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service Area-Wide Funding (NP304) and base funds for the Sustainable Agricultural Systems Laboratory research unit, as well as support from the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture, University of Maryland.

Supplementary material

49_2019_295_MOESM1_ESM.docx (185 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 185 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Plant Science and Landscape ArchitectureUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA
  2. 2.Sustainable Agricultural Systems LabUSDA-ARSBeltsvilleUSA
  3. 3.Department of Environmental Science and TechnologyUniversity of MarylandCollege ParkUSA

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