Integrating cover crop mulches in commercial pumpkin production in the Midwest.

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2001: $9,716.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2003
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $33,996.00
Region: North Central
State: Ohio
Project Coordinator:
Christian A. Wyenandt
The Ohio State University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: oats, rye


  • Crop Production: cover crops, tissue analysis
  • Soil Management: soil analysis


    Research results demonstrate that fall-sown rye, rye + hairy vetch and spring-sown oat can be successfully incorporated into pumpkin production in Ohio although integration and success will depend on fall-planting date, lbs/A planted, spring kill date, and method of pumpkin planting. A strip tillage production system may allow for easier pumpkin planting as well as offer some leeway in the window of opportunity for spring cover crop kill. Too much production of fall-sown rye biomass and successful kill of hairy vetch has often been a problem incountered by pumpkin growers. Spring-oat when planted at a high rate (110 lb/A) can also be successfully incorporated into a strip-tillage pumpkin production system. Planting a cover crop such as oat in the spring alleviates some of the problems of a fall-sown cover crop such as having a field free for planting and helps to avoid some of the weather contingencies necessary for a successful cover crop. Although oat will not produce as much biomass as a fall-sown rye, its growth habit makes it much easier to kill with herbicides, as well as, having a much greater window of opportunity for kill. Although cover crops such as rye can provide season long ground coverage, herbicide applications will be necessary. An herbicide over mulch (HOM) study will be under taken in 2003. Spring-sown annual medics when left as living mulches in a strip-tillage system with drip irrigation cause reduced yields. Competition for water and available N and allelopathy may all play a role, future work still needs to be done. Fruit cleanliness and pumpkin yield loss due to FFR was lowest in fall-sown rye and rye + HV plots suggesting that these cover crops provided an excellent physical barrier between pumpkin fruit and the soil.


    Cover crops have been used in high-input agronomic and vegetable production systems to help reduce soil erosion, fungicide use, plant disease, and weed pressure. Cover crops have also been shown to increase soil organic matter, nitrogen availability, and moisture. Traditional cover crops, such as hairy vetch (Vicia villosa) and winter rye (Secale cereale), which are killed and left on the soil surface, have been used in pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo) production with limited success. These traditional fall-sown cover crops can be killed by herbicide applications or mowing prior to pumpkin planting. Fusarium fruit rot (FFR) is a major soil-borne disease in pumpkin production. Current recommendations for control of FFR are crop rotations of four years or more. In small roadside farm operations where pumpkin rotations are grown continuously or rotated every one or two years, FFR can cause serious yield loss. Because control of FFR with fungicides does not work, there is a need for an alternative production system that allow for shortened pumpkin rotations. Cover crops killed and left on the soil surface may play an important role in alternative pumpkin production systems, as well as help reduce FFR.

    Project objectives:

    1.Selection of spring-sown living, fall-sown (herbicide) killed, and spring-sown (herbicide) killed cover crop mulches for use in commercial pumpkin production.

    2.Determine the effects of these cover crop mulch systems on pumpkin yield and aesthetic fruit quality.

    3.Determine the effects of cover crop mulches on soil-borne fungal diseases such as fruit rot of pumpkin caused by Fusarium spp.

    4.Introduce these cover crop systems to growers for use in commercial pumpkin production.

    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.