Effectiveness of different cover crops for erosion, weed, pest, and disease suppression in pumpkins

Project Overview

FNC15-1007
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2015: $3,818.00
Projected End Date: 02/15/2017
Grant Recipient: Red Barn Ranch
Region: North Central
State: Missouri
Project Coordinator:

Annual Reports

Commodities

  • Agronomic: sorghum (milo), grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Vegetables: cucurbits

Practices

  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: cover crops, no-till
  • Farm Business Management: agritourism
  • Pest Management: biological control
  • Production Systems: general crop production
  • Soil Management: organic matter

    Summary:

           This project was done to research the effectiveness of cool season and warm season cover crops vs. no cover crop on soil used to produce pumpkins. The project compared soil erosion, disease, weed pressure and pumpkin production. 

    Introduction:

           I was raised on my family’s diversified farm. Farming has always been and continues to be my way of life. We have a 135 cow dairy, raise corn, beans and forage crops and raise about 75 Angus cross calves every year. I understand and am comfortable with this type of production because it is what my 4 generation family has always done. When I married my wife we decided to branch out and try to further diversify our farm on our own. By doing so we stepped out of that comfort zone I grew up in and entered uncharted territory. In 2011 we started growing pumpkins. What we thought was going to be something we could do as a small project with the end goal to be to wholesale to the local stores, turned into something completely different. By the middle of our second season we discovered we didn’t have anywhere near the man power to move several acres of pumpkins on our own. We quickly discovered that for us the only way to get rid of  the pumpkins we produced was to invite the public to come pick them. This was the birth of Red Barn Ranch. That is what we call our U-pick pumpkin patch. As we grew in popularity the pressure to produce quality and a sufficient quantity also grew. It became more and more difficult to grow the amount of pumpkins we needed on ground that has been used to produce pumpkins for multiple years now. The disease and weed pressure along with erosion and pests was really cutting into our bottom line. I started looking for a solution but everyone I talked to simply said that what we were dealing with was just part of pumpkin production. I turned to our local fruit and vegetable production extension staff agent from Lincoln University f0r help to solve some of our problems. He suggested experimenting with a cover crop as they have helped to solve similar problem in other crop production systems. However, when we researched cover crops on pumpkin production we were not able to find any answers or results from anyone who had tried and documented their results anywhere near our area.

    Project objectives:

           After much discussion with extension agents I decided I would try cover crops on part of our farm. I wanted to test at least three different cover crops and compare them to an area with no cover crop. By completing a test plot with multiple modes of action I would be able to gain real life data on what would work with my soil and with my production methods and what would not. I would be able use this data to make decisions on if and how to produce healthier, nicer pumpkins all while using less time and chemical weeding, spraying and checking pumpkins and provide a better visual appeal to my clientele.

    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.