Reduced Till and No-Till Planting of Vegetables in a Vetch/Triticale Cover Crop

Project Overview

FNE19-924
Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2019: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 02/28/2022
Grant Recipient: Roxbury Farm
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Jean-Paul Courtens
Roxbury Agriculture Institute at Philia Farm

Commodities

  • Agronomic: triticale, vetches
  • Vegetables: cabbages

Practices

  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops, drought tolerance, no-till, nutrient management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer
  • Pest Management: competition, mulches - general, mulches - killed, mulching - vegetative
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture
  • Soil Management: soil physics, soil quality/health

    Proposal summary:

    Organic vegetable production is hard on the soil, with frequent tillage disrupting aggregate stability and soil biology. Organic vegetable production is also hampered by the cost of weed control (or the cost of having poor weed control). Planting vegetables directly into an organically killed cover crop helps to preserve the soil and can provide adequate weed control, but to this point no one has developed a system which also provides adequate nitrogen.

    This project will help determine the optimum rolled and crimpled vetch/triticale cover crop mix in order to provide good weed control and optimum fertility to mid-season vegetable crops. The equipment used in this trial is for a mid-scale farming operation, but the results will be applicable to any size plot from home garden upwards.

    In order to build on a first year of promising preliminary results, this project is organized as a randomized, replicated trial with 8 treatments. The two questions the trial seeks to answer are:

    1. a) what grass/legume mixes result in optimum yields in non-leguminous vegetable production (cabbage used as model)?
    2. b) what mixes provide the best natural weed control

    This data, and accompanying photos, will be shared as a manual which will build on existing information and in a presentation at major organic farming conferences.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The goal of this project is to lower the barriers of adopting reduced till and no till planting of mid-season vegetables.

    There is a great interest in reduced tillage amongst many organic farmers. Farmers are aware of the disadvantages of tillage but still have great apprehension towards adopting no-till planting of vegetables. The fear is since existing weed control equipment cannot deal with the plant mass, a crop can be lost once it is planted in a cover crop. Some “successful” examples use winter rye as a cover crop since this provides the best weed control, but this system reduces the yield of the vegetables to such extent that adopting this practice is counter-productive. Using leguminous cover crops for no till planting of vegetables provides a much better C:N ratio to ensure good yields but also breaks down before the crop can provide a good canopy.

    My assumption is that if it works for cabbage it will work for sweet-corn, squash, and other brassicas. There is not a great deal of information available on the “how to incorporate this practice” and what tools need to be adopted to make it work. I want to generate some of that information.

    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.