Finding the right mix of Cover Crops in a Sweetcorn and Snap Bean operation in the Midwest

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2018: $7,500.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2020
Grant Recipient: O'Rourke Family Gardens
Region: North Central
State: Illinois
Project Coordinator:
Mark ORourke
O'Rourke Family Gardens


  • Agronomic: buckwheat, peas (field, cowpeas), radish (oilseed, daikon, forage), rye, vetches
  • Vegetables: beans, sweet corn


  • Crop Production: cover crops, cropping systems, crop rotation
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research

    Proposal summary:

    In our fresh market vegetable farming operation our two largest crops by land area utilization are sweet corn and snap beans. These crops are first planted when field conditions are ideal in the spring and then every 1-2 weeks depending on heat unit accumulation in order to space the harvest of these crops as the market season progresses. Sweet corn and snap beans will be planted into the months of July and August respectively resulting in a harvest opportunity into early Fall. This system results in a portion of land sitting idle for up to 2 ½ months before a crop is planted. Following harvest of the first planted crops, if the timing is beyond the threshold for planting a subsequent (and rotated) crop, then it will remain fallow for the remainder of the growing season.

    During these periods, a tillage pass would be necessary to control weeds and possibly again prior to planting. The goal of this research is to select appropriate cover crop varieties or blends that will provide adequate weed suppression in both the post-harvest and pre-planting windows while maintaining yield expectations when compared to conventional tillage operations.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. To identify cover crop varieties or blends for Fall and Spring seeding that are suitable to be followed by Sweetcorn and Snap Bean production.
    2. To evaluate weed suppression of Spring and Late-Summer Cover Crop systems.
    3. Evaluate emergence of Sweetcorn and Snap Bean crops planted into cover system for each planting date.
    4. Compare and evaluate the yield results from the proposed cover crop systems to conventional tillage.
    5. Promote and share research observations and results through on-farm tours, producer field days, social media, and possibly specialty grower conferences.
    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.