Organic mulches and high residue no-till for collard production in Alabama

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2005: $10,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Grant Recipient: Auburn University
Region: Southern
State: Alabama
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Wes Wood
Auburn University Dept of Agronomy and Soils

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: rye, grass (misc. perennial), hay


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: agroforestry, application rate management, conservation tillage, continuous cropping, cover crops, no-till, nutrient cycling, organic fertilizers
  • Education and Training: demonstration
  • Natural Resources/Environment: hedgerows
  • Pest Management: chemical control, mulching - vegetative
  • Production Systems: holistic management, permaculture
  • Soil Management: nutrient mineralization, organic matter, soil analysis, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Traditional organic vegetable production relies on tillage for weed suppression, which exposes soil to erosion, contributes to non-point source pollution of water supplies and decreases soil organic matter and other soil quality parameters. Mulching is sometimes used to suppress weeds, which increases production costs. Organic producers are likely to adopt no-till if sufficient weed suppression can be achieved, because of the environmental, soil health and cost savings benefits afforded by no-till. Improvements in high residue no-till technology offer the prospect of vegetable production with no or limited herbicide use and should provide for weed suppression early in the season. High biomass perennial legumes grown as hedgerows in the field can provide mulch for weed suppression later in the season. In combination, the two systems could solve weed control problems while also providing nutrients to the crop. A combination of high residue cover crops with in situ organic mulches should provide vegetable growers with multiple benefits, including weed control, improved soil quality and reduced input costs. The objective of our experiment is to assess, in a high residue no-till collard production system, organic mulches grown in situ in the field using legume and non-legume cover crops. Albizia julibrissin and Sericea lespedeza mulches will be compared to hay mulch and a no-mulch control, with Crotolaria juncea and Fagopyrum esculentum as cover crops. Data will be collected on weed suppression, decomposition and nutrient release rates, crop yields and changes in soil chemical and physical properties over three years.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The objectives of our experiment are:
    1. To evaluate mimosa prunings, Chinese bush clover cuttings and hay straw as organic mulches in a high residue no-till system; and
    2. To compare buckwheat and sunn hemp as high-residue cover crops for no-till production of collards and the interaction of cover crop and mulch type on assessment parameters.
    Mulches and cover crops will be evaluated in terms of weed control, decomposition and nutrient release rates, changes in soil chemical and physical properties and crop yields.

    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.