Sustainable management of high tunnel organic vegetable production with short-season winter cover crops

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2014: $10,951.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2016
Grant Recipient: University of Arkansas
Region: Southern
State: Arkansas
Graduate Student:
Major Professor:
Dr. Curt Rom
University of Arkansas

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: broccoli, cabbages, tomatoes


  • Crop Production: cover crops

    Proposal abstract:

    High tunnels are gaining popularity for vegetable production in the southern region due to the opportunity for increased yields, season extension, and crop protection.  High tunnel production, however, can be input-intensive, lead to problems with soil-borne pathogens, and can result in the loss of soil quality from intensive cultivation. This project will investigate short-season winter cover crops to address these issues by improving soil quality and reducing the need for fertilizer inputs in organic high tunnel production. Research has shown the benefits of cover crops in field production, but the use of cover crops in high tunnel production has not been adequately evaluated for the South. This project will evaluate four winter cover crops, Austrian winter pea, bell bean, mustard, and Daikon radish, for their effect on soil quality and ability to supplement fertilizer requirement when included in a vegetable crop rotation in a high tunnel system. Soil, biomass, and foliar nutrient tests will determine the organic matter and nutrient contribution of the winter cover crops. After incorporation, the cover crops will be followed by a succession of three vegetable crops, including pac choi, tomatoes, and broccoli, which will be fertilized at a decreased rate to determine the ability of the cover crop treatments to supplement fertilizer inputs. Yield and performance of the vegetable crops will be measured to determine the effects of the cover crop treatments compared to a no-treatment control. The experiment will be replicated for two years.

    Project objectives from proposal:


      1. To evaluate four winter cover crops for their ability to improve soil quality and supplement fertilizer requirement when grown as a green manure from mid-November to mid-February, before a succession vegetable crops in a high tunnel system.


      1. To evaluate the effect of short-season winter cover crops on vegetable crop growth, yield, and quality within a high tunnel production system. Vegetable crops will include pac choi, tomatoes, and broccoli.


    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.