Summer Cover Crops for Organic No-till Broccoli

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2020: $14,820.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2022
Grant Recipient: Wild Hope Farm
Region: Southern
State: South Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Sarah Belk
Wild Hope Farm

Information Products


  • Agronomic: buckwheat, millet, soybeans, sunn hemp
  • Vegetables: broccoli


  • Crop Production: cover crops, no-till
  • Pest Management: weed management
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture

    Proposal summary:

    While Shawn Jadnircek, the farm manager at Wild Hope Farm, has done some small experiments with sunn hemp and millet as summer covers for no-till fall-planted crops, we would like to conduct a more controlled experiment in order to examine what mix of sunn hemp, Japanese millet, soybeans and buckwheat result in the best weed suppression and yield for our fall-planted broccoli. If we find a successful mix, this would bring our no-till crops to 75% of our total production, increasing our ecological and financial sustainability as a farm business. 

    In order to investigate which summer covers work the best, we will evaluate 1) weed suppression 2) total yields and 3) total labor hours for each treatment including bed preparation, transplanting and weeding.

    Our experiment will consist of 5 treatments: 

    1) Tilled after Sunnhemp (100lbs/acre)

    2) Crimped Sunn Hemp (100lbs/acre)

    3) Crimped Sunn Hemp (100lbs/acre) & Millet (50lbs/acre)

    4) Crimped Sunn Hemp (75lbs/acre), Millet (50lbs/acre) & Buckwheat (50lbs/acre)

    5) Crimped Sunn Hemp (75lbs/acre), Soybeans (50lbs/acre) & Buckwheat (50lbs/acre)

    An area of 12 tractor pulled raised beds (217ft long) will be divided into 15 sections (3 beds wide, 54 ft each) in order to provide 3 replications of our 5 treatments. A list randomizer was used to assign each area a treatment (see attached pdf).

    Before planting, the 12-bed area will be stale seed bedded 1-2 times with mechanical cultivation equipment dependent on weather. Each cover crop will be seeded 3 beds wide with a bag seeder at the densities specified above, and then incorporated with another pass of the bed shaper.

    Project objectives from proposal:


    • Weed Suppression
      • After broccoli planting, weed counts will be conducted in each treatment area every 2 weeks until the end of harvest.
      • We will randomly pick three 5ft x 5ft squares to sample within the plot at each weed count. 
    • Labor Hours
      • Labor hours for the preparation, seeding, planting, and weeding will be tracked for each plot.
    • Total Yield
      • The total yield of broccoli in pounds will be tracked for each treatment. 
    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.