On-Farm Demonstration and Evaluation on the Use of Landscape Fabric in Mixed Produce and Cut Flower Production

Project Overview

FNE20-949
Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2020: $14,976.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Full Circle Farms
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Sabine Carey
Full Circle Farms

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Crop Production: cropping systems, no-till, nutrient cycling, nutrient management, other, water management
  • Pest Management: cultivation, mulching - plastic
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil analysis, soil microbiology, soil quality/health

    Proposal summary:

    Our project will demonstrate the use of landscape fabric on three Pennsylvania farms, and will collect data on soil health comparing landscape fabric to control treatments of black plastic, straw mulch and bare ground.  Time involved with weeding, preparing, installing and removing landscape fabric will be tracked to demonstrate economic and quality of life impact. We hope to demonstrate that the use of landscape fabric can be part of a sound production system, supporting a healthy soil while creating less plastic waste, requiring less tillage and reducing soil erosion.

    Our project will collect data on soil moisture/temperature, changes in pH/organic matter and indicators of soil health including soil respiration and soil biology analysis to demonstrate differences between treatments.

    Outreach will occur through a variety of outlets, including field days during the growing season, as well as presentation/displays at conferences/grower meetings:

    • August, 2020 – Field demo tours at two sites through PASA and Pennsylvania Certified Organic (PCO) (Tait Farm is certified organic with PCO), allowing audience to hear about observations so far and observe both flower and produce systems.
    • February, 2021 - PASA Conference presentation/display.
    • January 2021, Mid-Atlantic Vegetable Growers Meeting in Harrisburg, PA
    • Results will be shared via articles for the following publications, which have national reach in both print and on-line newsletters: Association for Cut Flower Grower Association (ASCFG) , PCO, Growing for Market.
    • Reports will be available electronically, and will be shared via relevant  social media channels.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This project will demonstrate the effectiveness of landscape fabric in mixed produce and cut flower production on three Pennsylvania farms and its effects on soil health and soil parameters. We will collect data to demonstrate the effect that the use of landscape fabric has on soil moisture and temperature, as well as soil biology, soil respiration and pH &  organic matter. Data will also be collected on time spent preparing, installing and removing the landscape fabric, as well as time spent weeding.  Although farmers claim anecdotal increases in temperature and soil moisture, there is no current research on this, or the range of increase to be expected. With results from this project, farmers will be able to make a more informed decision on the use of landscape fabric as they evaluate methods to reduce weeds, tillage and use of non-renewable resources such as black plastic.

    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.