No-till, No-herbicide Planting of Spring Vegetables Using Low Residue Winter Killed Cover Crops

2011 Annual Report for LNE11-312

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2011: $154,405.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Northeast
State: Maryland
Project Leader:
Dr. Ray Weil
University of Maryland
Natalie Lounsbury
University of New Hampshire

No-till, No-herbicide Planting of Spring Vegetables Using Low Residue Winter Killed Cover Crops


Eight farmers in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Maine planted on-farm trials of forage radish as well as their “usual” cover crop prior to early spring vegetable planting and three field sites with full, replicated trials were planted at experiment stations in Maryland. Farmers will try no-till, no-herbicide planting in spring and research at experiment stations will investigate no-till vs. tilled planting as well as the response of different vegetable families to forage radish. Three presentations about the project are planned for vegetable grower conferences this winter in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

Objectives/Performance Targets

1.1,000 vegetable farmers managing 20,000 acres of land will learn about the concept of using low residue winterkilled cover crops to facilitate no-till spring planting through extension bulletins (May 2011 and 2012).

In June 2011, articles appeared in extension bulletins in PA, NJ, DE and MD about the project.

2.500 farmers will attend fall and spring field days and meetings where the new cover crop systems are featured (fall 2011 and 2012 and spring 2012 and 2013) and/or will visit our website and download information on equipment modifications, no-till planting and cover crops. 300 farmers will request additional information and/or seeds though our free seed outreach and will consider trying some version of this basic system.

Because of the late funding this year, a fall field day did not occur. Plans for field days in 2012 are underway.

3.150 farmers will plant 500 acres of spring crops by the radish/winterkilled cover crop no-till method.
25 farmers received seed packets for ¼ acre planting of forage radish. This is the first year of the project and we have not had extensive outreach or follow-up to date. We anticipate that after presenting at winter meetings, the number of farmers trying this system will expand dramatically and we will have contact information for many of them to follow-up with surveys.

4.120 of these farmers will experience significant time-saving, financial benefits and soil quality benefits from using the system.
This information will be available in future years as we follow up with farmers we have connected with at conferences, field days and meetings.

Performance targets:
1.120 farmers growing 2,400 acres of spring-planted vegetables will use forage radish and/or other winterkilled cover crop no-till planting system for half their spring acreage. They will reduce fall/winter N leaching by 100lbs/acre (total reduction of 120,000 lbs of N) and will use 50 lbs/acre less N fertilizer(saving >$400/acre for organic growers) in spring (60,000 lbs less N fertilizer used per year). They will use no primary spring tillage and no burndown herbicide on these acres resulting in 3 tons less erosion per acre (36,000 tons less erosion) and 1,000 lbs less herbicide sprayed. On average, they will plant their crops 10 days earlier and harvest 7 days earlier than with their old system; they will save $100/acre seedbed preparation costs ($120,000 per year) and earn $500/acre ($600,000 total) more in crop sales per year.

See above

2.12 vegetable farmers in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New Jersey will collaborate in this research by putting out replicated strips on their farms comparing forage radish no-till planting with their customary practice for early spring vegetable planting (August 2011-May 2012). 6 of these farmers will experiment with other winterkilled cover crops or mixtures of forage radish and other cover crops (August 2012-May 2013).

In fall 2011, eight farmers in Pennsylvania, Maryland and Maine put out replicated strips to try forage radish for no-till planting of a spring vegetable of their choice. Farmers in Maine became involved because of personal connections between researchers in Maryland and farmers in Maine. The information from Maine will expand the implications of the research and will give a sense of feasibility of these low-residue winterkilled systems for no-till planting in a different climate, all of which is encompassed by the Northeast SARE region.


Our project is in its first season. Some informal outreach occurred at farm events in summer of 2011 and seed packets were given to 25 farmers in exchange for filling out surveys on their current practices. Cover crops were planted at three experiment stations and on eight farms in July-September of 2010. We will plant spring crops in March-May of 2012 and we will share results in newsletters, field days and conferences in 2012.

A website is underway. An online photo album was established and some of the photos have received over 150 views. Especially popular are photos of spinach and kohlrabi planted after forage radish cover crop.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Because this is the first year of the project and spring crops have not yet been planted, there has been minimal feedback. However, farmers have been impressed with forage radish as a cover crop and many have also reported that they have enjoyed the benefit of selling some of the forage radish as daikon at their markets. Farmers are especially interested in the compaction alleviation of forage radish and are very willing to try it. More work investigating the N contribution of forage radish to a subsequent crop is needed before some farmers say they will reduce fertilizer inputs.


Dr. Masoud Hashemi
University of Massachusetts
201 Natural Resources Rd.
Amherst, MA 01003
Office Phone: 4135451843
David Liker
10151 Gorman Rd
Laurel, MD 20723
Office Phone: 3019088063
Tianna Dupont
Sustainable Agric. Extension Educator
Penn State University Cooperative Exensiont
Penn State University
North Hampton County Extension Office
Nazereth, PA 18064
Office Phone: 6107461970
Charlie White
Sustainable Agric. Extension Coordinator
Penn State Univ: Cooperative Extension
501 ASI Building Univ
University Park, PA 16802
Office Phone: 8148639922
Jack Gurley
Calvert's Gift Farm
16813 Yeoho Rd
Sparks, MD 21152
Office Phone: 4104726764