Optimization of cover crop strategies for pumpkin production in the mid-Atlantic

2003 Annual Report for LNE03-180

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2003: $99,613.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2007
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $72,640.00
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
Project Leader:
Caragh Fitzgerald
Maryland Cooperative Extension
Kathryne Everts
University of Delaware, Dept. of Plant and Soil

Optimization of cover crop strategies for pumpkin production in the mid-Atlantic


Many vegetable and field crop producers grow pumpkins to diversify their operations and provide an alternative source of revenue. The use of cover crops and no-till planting reduces diseased fruit, soil erosion, weed pressure, and nutrient loss. However, several concerns have prevented the wide-scale adoption of no-till methods for pumpkin production. These are: concern about carryover seed from the hairy vetch causing a weed problem in subsequent years; weed management in a no-till system; and a potential increase in Fusarium rot. In addition, farmers have requested help identifying cover crops that can be used after the pumpkin harvest.

This 3-year project is designed to address research needs expressed by pumpkin growers. We propose to 1) develop at least 2 cover crop schemes that maximize profits of pumpkin producers while minimizing disease development, and 2) improve the understanding of how cover crops affect pumpkin diseases, fungicide use and the cost of pumpkin crop production. We will examine cover crops to precede or follow the pumpkin crop; the effect of the cover crops on yield, fruit quality; incidence and severity of pumpkin diseases; and management options for diseases.

Pumpkin growers will be active participants in this project through feedback on our research and by conducting on-farm trials and demonstrations. Farmers will learn about cover crops and will provide us with feedback and suggestions on our project. Growers will attend twilight meetings and see results of replicated research non-replicated on-farm demonstrations. We will work directly with interested farmers to help them implement the new technology.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Of the 150 mid-Atlantic pumpkin growers participating in this SARE project, 12 will either initiate cover crop use or improve their cover crop selection and management within 3-5 years of the start of this project.

Alternatively, the research may determine that a particular cover crop/pumpkin production strategy is not profitable and we will demonstrate to 150 growers to not adopt this production practice thus avoiding lost income for these growers.
To help us achieve this goal, we will produce written descriptions of at least 2 cover crop schemes that maximize the profits of pumpkin producers while minimizing disease development. These descriptions will include information on cover crop management and their effects on pumpkin diseases and management. These products will help farmers adopt new practices even after the project has concluded.


A survey was designed and distributed at one event to obtain feedback on cover crop selection and problem identification. Three surveys were returned at the 2003 event. This effort will be concentrated in 2004 and 2005.

On-farm experiments were planted in Fall 2003 on 3 commercial farms (5 replications total) to evaluate the success of overseeding legume cover crops into a standing pumpkin crop prior to harvest. Two farms were located in central Maryland, one on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
Replicated trials of possible new cover crops were established at 2 University research farms. In addition, a subset (five) of the treatments were planted on a third research farm in Delaware (University of Delaware Experiment Station Farm in Newark, DE). Their effect on pumpkins will be determined in 2004.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

This project has just begun, and nearly all of the field work (and thus results) will come in later years.


Dwight Baugher

Baugher Enterprises, Inc.
Lori Lynch

Associate Professor and Extension Specialist
University of Maryland, Dept. of Agricultural Reso
Guy Moore

Larriland Farm
Jim and Linda Brown

Triadelphia Lakeview Farm
15155 Triadelphia Rd.
Glenelg, MD 21737
Office Phone: 4104894460
Laura Romaneo

Extension Educator
Maryland Cooperative Extension—Wicomico County
Bryan Butler

Extension Educator
Maryland Cooperative Extension—Carroll County