- Crop Production: cover crops
- Production Systems: general crop production
- Soil Management: nutrient mineralization
Cover crops have many well-documented benefits for soil quality, but the ability to calculate these benefits and understand their cumulative value to farm businesses over a number of years is limited. Replicated trials inside the controlled environment of experiment stations have developed a prediction equation for first-year plant-available nitrogen following cover crop plow-down. But researchers are currently unable to quantify gradual increases in soil fertility and quality over time and under different conditions. The nitrogen cycle on farms is more complicated than in controlled experiments because of management history, cultivation practices and varying soil texture. Collaborative work is needed between farmers and scientists on "adaptive" cover-cropping systems on real farms. This project proposes to increase confidence in managing N and improving soil quality within organic/ecological vegetable rotations. The goal is to find out if an intensive vegetable rotation that relies entirely on cover crops can maintain or improve soil quality and provide enough N for vegetable production over time and on different soil types.
Project objectives from proposal:
Our objectives are to: 1. Collaborate with growers to identify adaptations to cover cropping systems in commercial vegetable rotations. 2. Improve our ability to quantify N and soil quality benefits of cover crops over a number of years. 3. Increase farmer confidence in, and use of, N mineralization estimates and soil and plant tissue testing methods to determine nitrogen input needs (need for fertilizers, manures, composts) for the summer vegetable crops. 4. Extend project findings to a larger audience.