Establishing a perennial living mulch for weed control in sweet corn

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2019: $8,088.00
Projected End Date: 08/28/2021
Grant Recipient: Willow Creek Farm
Region: North Central
State: Illinois
Project Coordinator:
Charles Martin
Willow Creek Farm

Information Products


  • Vegetables: sweet corn
  • Additional Plants: Kura clover
  • Miscellaneous: perennial cover crops


  • Crop Production: cover crops, cropping systems, double cropping, intercropping, multiple cropping, no-till, strip tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, on-farm/ranch research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: mulches - living, smother crops
  • Production Systems: integrated crop and livestock systems

    Proposal summary:

    Kura clover living legume mulch systems have been shown to be an ecologically sound, effective weed suppression method in soybeans (Iowa State University, 2007; and corn (Ken Albrecht, University of Wisconsin-Madison, 2007; under research conditions. However, kura clover as a living mulch is slow to establish ("sleep stage"), presenting first-year weed control problems. After establishment, for organic farmers wanting to use living legume mulches, there are practical technical problems related to kura clover suppression/control within the cash crop row without the use of conventional herbicides, as well as practical management of the kura clover competition and height between the rows. This project proposes: 1) to establish kura clover into one acre of a winter-killed cover crop/soybean stubble mix using a no-till drill to minimize first-year weed growth until the kura clover fills in; then 2) use a tractor-mounted strip tillage tool (Orthman 1tRIPr strip tiller or comparable equipment; after establishment ("creep stage") to prepare a clean, clover-free uniform seedbed for sweet corn planting. Once the kura clover is fully established ("leap stage"), 3) mechanical control of inter-row kura clover growth will be attempted using an inter-row crimper/roller tool from Walnut Creek Seeds, LLC ( or comparable equipment.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    My project objectives:

    1) To successfully establish a dense stand of kura clover as a living mulch;

    2) To apply an innovative mechanical strip tillage method for seedbed preparation to interseed sweet corn into the established kura clover;

    3) To test out an inter-row crimper/roller to control any aggressiveness in the growth or spread of the kura clover;

    4) The proposed demonstration site is adjacent to a state highway,  so I will promote the project by posting signs for passersby;

    5) To document the project through photographs/video, take growth and yield measurements, and issue a press release to the media.

    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.