Effects of Non-Leguminous Cover Crops on Yield and Quality of Baby Corn (Zea mays L.) Grown under Subtropical Conditions
Effects of non-leguminous cover crops and their times of chopping on the yield and quality of no-till baby corn (Zea mays L.) were evaluated during two kharif seasons (May-August in 2014 and 2015) under subtropical climatic conditions of Punjab, India. The experiment was laid out in a split-plot design with four replications at Punjab Agricultural University’s Research Farm. Three cover crops (pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum L.), fodder maize (Zea mays L.), and sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L.)) and the control (no cover crop) were in the main plots and chopping time treatments (25, 35, 45 days after planting (DAP)) in the subplots. During both kharif seasons, the yield (cob and fodder yield) and dry matter accumulation of baby corn following cover crop treatments, especially pearl millet, were significantly (p ≤ 0.05) higher than the control, and improved with increments in chopping time from 25 to 45 DAP. The effect of cover crops on baby corn quality (i.e., protein, starch, total soluble solids, crude fiber, total solid, and sugar content) did not differ among treatments, while increasing increments in chopping time had a significant effect on the protein and sugar content of baby corn. The use of cover crops and increment in chopping time helped in enhancing topsoil quality, especially available nitrogen; yet, the effect of cover crops and their times of chopping on topsoil organic carbon, phosphorus, and potassium did not differ among treatments. During both seasons, there was no significant interaction between cover crop and time of chopping among treatments with respect to baby corn yield and quality, as well as topsoil quality parameters.