No-till pumpkins using cover crops

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2007: $131,420.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Project Coordinator:
Dr. Dale Mutch
Michigan State University Extension

Annual Reports


  • Vegetables: cucurbits


  • Production Systems: general crop production

    Proposal abstract:

    This project’s goal is to use a tractor-pulled roller/crimper to develop organic and low-input pumpkin production systems. Current farm practices require high fuel consumption and multiple trips in the field that, with rising fuel prices, cut deeply into farm profits. The work carried out through this proposal will reduce variable costs (e.g. fuel consumption, herbicide and other pesticide inputs) in organic and conventional pumpkin production systems by combining conservation tillage practices with use of the new roller/crimper cover crop-killing technology. This project proposes to use farmer-driven research, farmers’ experience, on-farm trials and farmer-to-farmer educational programs to increase the adoption of its results by farmers. Farmers will help develop, direct and evaluate the proposed project. Through this participatory research approach there will be greater and faster adoption of the practices. Information will be distributed via the New Ag Network, Extension bulletins, scientific journals, professional meetings, field days and farmer-to-farmer meetings. Various evaluation tools including questionnaires, checklists and end-of-session summaries will be designed and data will be gathered at different stages of the project. Project outcomes: Short-term: 400 sustainable and organic farmers will be more knowledgeable and adopt new cover crop management strategies for low- and no-tillage farming systems. Intermediate: 10 farmers will adopt this new system and present their assessments of weed suppression and nutrient dynamics to more than 250 farmers through farmer-to-farmer educational meetings.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The overall project goal is to use a tractor-drawn roller/crimper to develop organic and low-input pumpkin production systems. This goal will be reached by improving season-long surface residue through new killing technology (roller/crimper) and various production scenarios.

    Objective 1—Optimize Cover Crop Management Determine the appropriate cover crop management techniques to maximize biomass production. Planned accomplishments:
    1) Identify rye density and variety that produce the greatest biomass. 2) Determine the best variety for rolling and crimping to provide season soil cover with residue.

    Objective 2—Develop a Low-Input Pumpkin production system. Measure microclimate parameters and pumpkin yield in the various cover crop treatments under organic, conventional and low-input systems. Planned accomplishments:
    1) Measure and compare soil temperature under different systems.
    2) Quantify and compare the effects of cover crop burn down with herbicides or kill with the roller/crimper microbial activity.
    3) Measure light penetration through the cover crop residue in the different cover crop management systems.
    4) Quantify and compare yield from the different systems.

    Objective 3—Improve Weed and Disease Management in Pumpkin Production
    Determine integrated management systems that reduce inputs while providing season-long weed control and reduced fruit rot. Planned accomplishments:
    1) Quantify weed suppression under the different cover crops and killing methods.
    2) Determine the impact of the management systems on fruit rot and quality.

    Objective 4—Extension and Outreach
    Develop and implement an effective Extension and outreach program to disseminate study results to Michigan and North Central Region growers. Planned accomplishments:
    1) Demonstrate integrated weed management systems by using the roller/crimper during field days.
    2) Show growers how to build their own low-cost roller/crimper (less than $1,500).
    3) Work with four Michigan farmers to demonstrate project results on-farm. These farmers will host field days for other farmers.
    4) Write and publish an Extension bulletin, NAN and newsletter articles to inform growers and policy makers about major results.
    5) Update weed control and cover crop website.
    6) Present results at regional growers’ meetings like the Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable and Farm Market Expo and the Ohio and Indiana Fruit and Vegetable Expo.
    7) Write scientific publications on major aspects of findings.

    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.