Cover Crops for Sustainable Pest Management and Soil Quality in Production Nurseries

2009 Annual Report for LNE08-274

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2008: $175,920.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
Project Leader:
Dr. Paula Shrewsbury
University of Maryland

Cover Crops for Sustainable Pest Management and Soil Quality in Production Nurseries


In early spring 2009 the project leaders met face to face and discussed progress made in fall 2008 (first field season), and to refine the research and demonstration protocol aimed at identifying and implementing the use of cover crops in field production nurseries to determine their benefits to pest management and soil quality for the 2009 season. On-farm visits and email interactions also took place with the 3 nursery cooperators to obtain their input on the project to date. The four studies implemented in fall 2008 were continued into 2009. Three of the studies consisted of spring / summer and fall cover crop treatments. In all three nurseries studies on cover crops took place in the tree bare zone areas and fallow tree rows (trees have been harvested over time). In one of the three nurseries 2 additional studies were implemented: 1 is evaluating cover crops in open field plots of the nursery, and the 2nd is evaluating 3 turf types, each with and without cover crops in grass alleys of the nursery. Data were collected through out the summer and fall and are currently being analyzed. The 2nd Nursery Field Day, “Sustainable Nursery Practices that Improve Your Profitability”, was held in the fall 2009 at one of the cooperating nurseries and was attended by approximately 40 stakeholders representing nursery growers, IPM consultants, government agencies, Extension, University administration, and green industry associations. A survey was given to field day participants to determine if the information presented was informative and if they were likely to implement practices / methods they had learned about that day. Five presentations on the projects progress and results, and other sustainable practices were presented.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Of the 150 MD growers trained at field days and other events, a minimum of 25 that have never used cover crops in their nursery will use cover crops in at least one production field, and five nurseries will adopt one new ecologically based pest or soil management practice to reduce pest pressure or improve soil quality.


In the 2nd year (2009, 1st full year) of the proposed project milestones 4, 6, and 7 were addressed. Three nursery growers worked with project leaders implementing the proposed research. Data are still being analyzed (prior to addressing milestone 5). The project participants further developed the research / demonstration protocol as issues arose during the field season. In the fall (2009) a nursery field day was conducted at one of the cooperating nurseries demonstrating the proposed project and other sustainable practice relevant to nursery production. Presentations on sustainable practices were given at green industry conferences.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Approximately 40 stakeholders attended the fall 2009 nursery field day, “Sustainable Nursery Practices that Improve Your Profitability”, held at one of the cooperating nurseries and were informed on the use of cover crops and their benefits to pest management and soil quality, and other sustainable nursery production practices. Nursery growers were surveyed at the end of the event. This survey determined that participant awareness on cover crops and their benefits was considerably increased. Out of 11 stakeholders responding to the survey, 11 found the presentations to be highly informative, and 9 stated they anticipate using the information presented. Project presenters effectively presented the material (11 of 11 respondents rated satisfactory to excellent). Presentations on other sustainable practices (ex. using sensor technology to improve water use efficiency; biodegradable pots; alternatives to glyphosate) were ranked similarly by field day participants, including 2 presentations by nursery growers. Approximately 150 green industry stakeholders were informed on sustainable practices via presentations at conferences.


Raymond Weil

[email protected]
University of Maryland
Department of Environmental Science and Technology
1109 H.J. Patterson Hall
College Park, MD 20742
Office Phone: 3014051314
Stanton Gill

[email protected]
University of Maryland
11975-A Homewood Road
Ellicott City, MD 21042
Office Phone: 3015969413
Charles Schuster

[email protected]
University of Maryland
Montgomery County Extension
18410 Muncaster Road
Derwood, MD 20855
Office Phone: 3015902807