Flail Mowing as a Viable No-till Method of Transitioning from Overwintered Cover Crops to Summer Planted Cucurbits

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2024: $7,500.00
Projected End Date: 05/31/2025
Grant Recipient: Adamah
Region: Northeast
State: Connecticut
Project Leader:


  • Vegetables: cucurbits


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops, no-till, nutrient cycling
  • Soil Management: soil quality/health

    Proposal summary:

    We have shifted toward no-till on
    our vegetable farm over the past eight years because of its soil
    health and production system benefits. The missing piece of the
    no-till puzzle has been summer planted crops into overwintered
    cover crops. We are able to make cover cropping and no-till work
    together  for earlier and later plantings but we have
    struggled to find a way to prepare summer planted beds quickly
    without tillage since our over wintered cover crops that protect
    the soil in spring don’t flower until right when we need to plant
    into them. 

    Flail mowing could be a great way
    to quickly switch from cover crops to summer cash crops, so we
    will compare it to our standby bed preparation system,
    rototilling, in terms of labor required for bed prep, planting,
    and weeding as well as in terms of yield for two summer plantings
    that are spaced out by a couple of weeks: zucchini and winter
    squash. We will also compare soil health between the two
    treatments to see if no-till is beneficial in that regard.

    We intend to do outreach about
    our results via writing and publishing about the project, as well
    as talking to farmers about the project informally and via
    workshops or panels, likely in collaboration with American
    Farmland Trust.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The two objectives of this project are to determine

    1) the farm production system viability of flail mowing
    overwintered cover crops in May and planting directly into the
    resulting mulch, addressing the following questions:

        a) How does the labor time required for bed
    preparation, planting, and weeding compare between flail mowed
    beds and rototilled beds?

        b) Are there differences in yield between the two

    2) whether we can observe soil health benefits of flail mowing vs
    rototilling, including soil structure, organic matter, microbial
    life, moisture retention, and nutrient analysis. Of course, soil
    health benefits are tied to objective number one, because the
    healthier the soil the more viable a farm production system

    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.