Use of Tarps to Terminate High-Residue Winter-Hardy Cover Crops Before No-Till Organic Vegetables

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2017: $29,998.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2019
Grant Recipient: University of Wisconsin Extension Dane County
Region: North Central
State: Wisconsin
Project Coordinator:
Claire Strader
Dane County Extension


  • Vegetables: brussel sprouts


  • Crop Production: cover crops, no-till
  • Production Systems: general crop production

    Proposal abstract:

    One common criticism of organic agriculture is that it relies too heavily on tillage. While there has been some success with organic no-till row crops, organic no-till vegetables are still a conundrum.  Inadequate weed control, narrow cover crop termination windows, planting delays related to termination, and the need for specialized equipment are all challenges.  This project design will address all of those issues and will focus on the use of  tarps to kill a high-residue winter-hardy mix of rye and vetch before organic vegetables.  While a rye/vetch mix is commonly used in this type of system, successful termination can be tricky as the optimal termination windows for rye and vetch are not often in sync. In this trial, a disengaged rotovator will knock over and align the cover crop and tarping will be the primary termination technique, thus removing the need for a roller crimper, allowing for flexibility in timing, and creating a stale seed bed through occulation.  For the sake of data collection, the vegetable crop will be Brussel sprouts.  This research will also inform other transplanted vegetable crops.  Organic vegetable farmers in south central Wisconsin will cooperate on this research, which will be relevant to the upper Midwest.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    • Assess the effectiveness of three different types of reusable tarps in terminating a rye/vetch cover crop before no-till organic vegetables
    • Evaluate the yields and management costs of the no-till systems compared to a conventionally tilled control.
    • Share information with growers through a field day in 2018 (expected attendance of 35 to 40)
    • Create an illustrated info sheet and short video with project results and recommendations to be posted on the Dane County Extension website and disseminated through our vegetable farmer database (240 addresses)
    • Contribute information to the development of longer, multi-year reduced tillage vegetable rotations
    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.