Integrating no-till and forage radish cover crops for sustainable early sweet corn production

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2014: $14,955.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Grant Recipient: University of Massachusetts Amherst
Region: Northeast
State: Massachusetts
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Masoud Hashemi
University of Massachusetts Amherst

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: oats
  • Vegetables: sweet corn


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Energy: energy conservation/efficiency
  • Pest Management: flame, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: transitioning to organic
  • Soil Management: earthworms, green manures, nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil analysis, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures

    Proposal abstract:

    Fall-planted forage radish cover crops have shown successful suppression of winter annual weeds and spring pre-plant weed growth as well as recycling of fall-captured nutrients. Early spring crops may take advantage of these benefits. Specifically, a nitrogen-demanding crop such as sweet corn can benefit from nitrogen released from rapidly decomposing forage radish residue. Large root channels created by the radish provide excellent water infiltration and warmer soil temperature for early planting. Research has shown that high residue cover crops such as rye and vetch reduce sweet corn emergence, but research is lacking on the effects of low-residue forage radish on sweet corn. This study will use two experiments to evaluate the feasibility of early planting and weed suppression from forage radish in a no-till sweet corn system. In Experiment 1, early sweet corn will be no-till planted following three different forage radish cover crop mixes (all forage radish, oats/forage radish, and peas/oats/forage radish). Weed population and cover crop biomass will be measured at regular intervals. Three fertility treatments will be used to examine the synchrony between nutrient release from decomposing cover crop and the uptake by sweet corn will be measured. Nitrogen sufficiency tests (PSNT and CSNT) will be performed and marketable yield will be assessed. In Experiment 2, three weed management methods including herbicide application, flaming, and no-till cultivation will be studied. Data from this research will able to be used to develop an innovative production system for early sweet corn to take full advantage of the benefits of a forage radish cover crop.

    Project objectives from proposal:



    Our primary objective is to determine and disseminate technical information to support sustainable production of early sweet corn using reduced tillage, reduced herbicide application, and reduced nutrient loss.


    Specifically, our objectives are to:





      1. Measure the effectiveness and duration of spring weed suppression by forage radish on subsequent sweet corn crop;


      1. Determine if the precocity of sweet corn planting and maturity can be improved by a preceding forage radish cover crop;


      1. Assess the feasibility and success of earlier planting of sweet corn into a no-till seed bed following winter-killed forage radish cover crop mixes;


      1. Measure the sweet corn yield and date of maturity to determine the effectiveness of a forage radish/sweet corn cropping rotation for producing high quality, early sweet corn;


      1. Provide information relevant to both organic and conventional sweet corn producers, as well as no-till producers;


      1. Conduct outreach through individual communication, grower meetings and conferences, annual field day events, newsletters and cooperative extension.


    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.