Project objectives from proposal:
In this study, we will develop a reduced tillage production system for onion production on muck soils and evaluate the effects of using reduced tillage and cover crops on soil health. Replicated side-by-side comparisons between reduced and conventional tillage systems will be made for both transplanted and direct seeded onions. Stand establishment, ground cover, yield, size and quality will be evaluated in both tillage systems. There is opportunity for more efficient use of fertilizer in zone tillage production systems where fertilizer is banded compared to a conventional system where it is broadcast. Therefore, we plan to assess soil nutrient levels at critical times during the growing season. We anticipate that there may be changes in weed, insect and disease pressure between reduced and conventional tillage systems, and plan to evaluate any differences. A simple economic analysis of each system, which will include the expenses associated with the use of equipment and pesticides will be conducted. The trials will be show-cased on summer tours and results will be presented statewide. The challenges inherent in adopting a reduced tillage system will be addressed and more grower cooperators will come on-board in future years of study as muck growers strive to preserve the long-term profitability of muck soils.