Cover Crops in Woody Ornamental Production: Impact on Plant Growth, Arthropod Pests, Soil-Borne Pathogens and Weeds

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2018: $284,869.00
Projected End Date: 09/30/2021
Grant Recipient: Tennessee State University
Region: Southern
State: Tennessee
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Karla Addesso
Tennessee State University

Information Products

Cover Crops in the Nursery (Conference/Presentation Material)


  • Additional Plants: ornamentals, trees


  • Crop Production: biological inoculants, cover crops, foliar feeding, nurseries
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, workshop
  • Natural Resources/Environment: drift/runoff buffers, soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: allelopathy, biofumigation, chemical control, competition, cultural control, field monitoring/scouting, integrated pest management, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems
  • Soil Management: green manures, soil analysis, soil microbiology

    Proposal abstract:

    The purpose of this project is to move nursery production towards more sustainable management practices. To accomplish this task, evidence-based recommendations are needed to improve wood ornamental cropping while minimizing weed, pest arthropod and disease concerns. Our project will evaluate the impacts of cover crop use in field-grown woody ornamental production.

    While the impact of cover crops have been studied extensively in row crop and vegetable production, less is known about how cover crops may positively or negatively affect perennial woody ornamental production. Woody ornamental production systems are complicated to manage due to the many plant species grown on a single nursery. To effectively serve this industry, management solutions must be applicable to a wide range of tree and shrub crops. Of particular interest to growers is the amount of competition endured by trees in fields with cover crops growing within tree rows as compared to rows with weeds or those kept clean with pre-emergent herbicides. The presence of cover crops may alter arthropod pest and beneficial communities as well. An additional gap in our knowledge base is the efficacy of biofumigant cover crops for management of soil-borne diseases in multi-year cropping systems such as those of woody perennials.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    The objectives include an investigation of the use of cover crops in woody ornamental production systems through:

    1. The evaluation of winter cover crop stand recovery and tree seedling development after fall or spring transplant of tree liners;
    2. The evaluation of summer and winter cover crop rotations in established tree production areas;
    3. Optimization of winter cover crops methods for management of key woody ornamental tree pest, the flatheaded appletree borer, and;
    4. The incorporation of biofumigant cover crops for treatment of soils prior to liner transplant.

    The impact of these practices on soil-borne pathogens, soil quality, pest and beneficial arthropod populations, weed pressure, and plant growth will be evaluated.

    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.