Managing Cover Crop and Conservation Tillage Systems To Enhance Vegetable Crop Yields, Economic Returns and Environmental Quality

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2004: $182,438.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Western
State: Oregon
Principal Investigator:
John Luna
Oregon State University

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: beans, broccoli, sweet corn


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: decision support system, demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, mentoring, networking, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, technical assistance
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, budgets/cost and returns, cooperatives, agricultural finance, risk management, value added
  • Natural Resources/Environment: biodiversity, habitat enhancement, soil stabilization, wildlife
  • Pest Management: allelopathy, cultural control, economic threshold, field monitoring/scouting, flame, integrated pest management, mulches - living, physical control, cultivation, precision herbicide use, prevention, smother crops, mulching - vegetative, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, transitioning to organic, integrated crop and livestock systems
  • Soil Management: earthworms, green manures, organic matter, soil analysis, composting, nutrient mineralization, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: new business opportunities, partnerships


    In six on-farm trials to evaluate three cover crops (oats, oats plus vetch, and phacelia plus vetch) for strip-till sweet corn production, the oat-vetch mixture increased average corn yields by an average of 11%, or one ton per acre compared to the fallow plots. After factoring costs of cover crop establishment, the oat-legume cover crop increase net profit by $50/acre compared to the fallow treatment. In a two-year experiment to evaluate nitrogen (N) contribution of cover crops in organic broccoli production, the phacelia-vetch mixture increased broccoli yield over the fallow treatment by 1.3 tons per acre, worth $2,370 per acre.

    Project objectives:

    Objective 1. To enhance farmers’ ability to select and manage cover crops in conservation tillage vegetable crop production systems

    Objective 2. To evaluate the nitrogen contribution of legume-based cover crops to organic vegetable production

    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.