Winter-Kill Cover-Cropping for Erosion Control in Mechanically-Cultivated Organic Garlic

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2024: $6,218.00
Projected End Date: 10/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Benedikt Dairy
Region: Northeast
State: New Hampshire
Project Leader:
Max Blindow
Benedikt Dairy


  • Vegetables: garlic


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops, no-till
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: green manures, soil quality/health

    Proposal summary:

    Within organic garlic cultivation, there are three commonly-used
    weed-control methods: 1. Plasticulture 2. mulching with straw 3.
    bare-earth cultivation. Growing garlic in plastic creates
    unnecessary plastic waste and micro plastics contamination. Straw
    mulch in our area is not readily available and costly, its
    application is labor intensive and when applied thick enough for
    effective weed control interferes with the operation of an
    undercutter that we use for harvesting. Bare-earth growing with
    mechanical cultivation provides successful, cost-effective weed
    control, but leaves fields vulnerable to erosion during the
    winter months. We think cover crops can fix this issue. This
    research seeks to determine the level of cover-crop biomass at
    which erosion control is effective, and mechanical cultivators
    may still be used without obstruction from cover crop mulch. By
    planting a mixed oats and peas cover crop at successively later
    dates in the season, the cover crop will winter-kill at
    successive levels of biomass and therefore residue. By planting
    directly into this cover crop without tillage and using the same
    mechanical weed control methods on each planting, we will be able
    to determine at what biomass level mechanical cultivation is
    still possible, as well as the effectiveness of the erosion
    control provided by the cover crop at successive planting stages.
    Cover crop height will be measured, and qualitative visual
    inspections and photo documentation will be used to measure the
    effectiveness of the mechanical cultivator and the extent of

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The objective of this project is to find the ideal time to plant an
    oat/pea cover crop before no-till planting garlic into it. The
    ideal planting time maximizes biomass production up to the point of
    cover crop residue makes mechanical cultivation of weeds
    unfeasible. To determine the ideal planting time we will plant 4
    successions (spaced 3 weeks apart) of oat-pea cover crop and a
    bare-earth control. Then we will document the differences in
    erosion control, weed suppression, feasibility of mechanical weed
    control, and yield.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.