Activating soil fertility in mulch-prepared small-plot commercial no-till

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2013: $5,944.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2014
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Coordinator:
Ryan Stubby
Gardens at Eighty Acres

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: beets, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, celery, garlic, greens (leafy), leeks, brussel sprouts


  • Crop Production: cover crops, no-till
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning
  • Production Systems: holistic management, organic agriculture, permaculture
  • Soil Management: earthworms, green manures

    Proposal summary:

    Mulch-prepared no-till systems have been demonstrated to increase soil biological activity and moisture retention while reducing weed pressure and soil erosion. Currently, many of the fertility components for preparing and sustaining these systems must be imported from off farm including compost, minerals and mulch. The vast amount of research on cover cropping in conventional/organic no-till systems has thoroughly been demonstrated to provide solutions addressing fertility. However, in the fast growing sector of small-plot (1-5 acres) mulch-prepared commercial no-till/low-mechanized farms and gardens, there is a lack of research on the integration of cover cropping to reduce imported fertility and materials. This proposal is to explore a method of integrating a cover crop rotation into a small-plot mulch prepared no-till system preceding the planting of fall vegetable crops.

    Project objectives from proposal:

     • Build soil structure using heavy straw mulch layer followed by cover cropping.
     • Remain free from using tillage equipment.
     • Utilize traditional hand tools to manage soil and cover crops in preparation of new food production plots.
     • Produce harvestable yields of vegetable crops after one year soil preparation cycle.



    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.