The effects of climate change are being felt on organic vegetable farms in the upper Midwest. Bigger and more frequent rain events cause erosion, delay planting, and hamper weed control. This project will explore using living aisles and no-till planting strips to mitigate the impacts of intense rains linked to climate change. Both practices are known to reduce erosion, improve soil permeability, and increase soil quality, making them logical choices for resilient farming systems. However, concerns about reduced yield, increased labor, and overall weed control mean that neither practice is commonly used on organic vegetable farms. This proposal is designed to address farmers’ concerns and develop no-till techniques that can be incorporated into diversified vegetable systems.
Clover aisles established in fall will improve weed control through two cropping years; winter-killed cover crops in the planting strips will create an in-situ mulch to be planted without tillage (even when the ground is wet); and occultation with black tarps will create a stale planting bed to minimize weeds. This research will use broccoli and peppers and will also inform other transplanted crops. Organic vegetable farmers in southern Wisconsin will cooperate on this research, which will be relevant in the upper Midwest.
Project objectives from proposal:
- Assess the effectiveness of three planting strip treatments between living clover aisles
- Evaluate yields and management costs of living aisle/planting strip treatments as compared to open ground/conventionally-tilled control
- Share information with growers through a field day (expected attendance 35 to 40)
- Create an illustrated info sheet and video with results and recommendations to be posted on the FairShare website and social media accounts, disseminated through our farmer database (280 contacts), and made available at the annual Organic Vegetable Production Conference (expected attendance over 200)
- Contribute information to the development of longer, multi-year, reduced-tillage vegetable rotations