Conservation tillage for organic cabbage: Yield, weed growth, and management costs
We wanted to test how no till organic cabbage would compare to the tilled cabbage that we usually grow in terms of yield and labor. We planted three varieties of cabbage (green, red, and chinese) in two locations this spring. Each location was planted with hairy vetch cover crop the previous fall and had three replications with two tillage treatments (no-till and full tillage) for each variety. Unfortunately, we lost one entire location to deer damage in the summer and ended up with only one viable lacation as a result. We recorded the time it took to weed all plots and the final harvest weight for each cabbage variety and treatment as well as the number of harvestable heads. We had originally wanted to do a more complicated experiment than we ended up doing in several ways. We wanted to have an additional tillage treatment (strip tillage) but the tiller we had planned to use for strip tillage pulled all of the cover crop off of the entire plots so we decided to only do two treatments. We had also originally proposed to measure weed density and soil nitrogen but found the logistics too dificult to do during the season.
During the course of the experiment, we presented to thoery and intention behind it to dozens of our residental fellows and other guests on the farm, including an undergraduate biology class from a nearby college. We used these sessions to teach about experimental design, the need for soil conservation, competing factors on farms, and some of our set backs.
We have not analyzed our data statistically yet but during harvest we observed that the cabbage from no-till plots were generally smaller.
After two years of not being able to perform our experiment, we have been delighted to get our experiment in the ground and harvested. We're looking forward to doing our data analysis this winter and publisizing our results during the winter and spring. During this growing season we discussed the ongoing project with dozens of short and long-term visitors to our farm.
As we have not completed our data analysis, we think that the most important impact of this experiment in the last year was in the education that we did teaching at the experiment site. We had two sessions of residential fellows and an ecology class from Bard College learn about the project and the ways that it worked and the need for both our project in particular and on farm research in general. We also breifly described the experiment and its goals to many other short term visitors to our farm.