Rolled Down Cover Crop Mulch for Pumpkin and Soybean Production
Organic producers generally rely heavily on tillage for weed control. In contrast conventional producers can utilize no-tillage techniques but must rely on herbicide burn down before no-till drilling crops. Researchers from the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, PA have developed an organic no-tillage technique that allows organic growers to benefit from the soil building characteristics of no-till without reliance on chemical weed control. Their organic no-till system relies on thickly planted winter covers which when rolled down create a dense mulch of organic material. Field crops are no-till planted into this mulch which suppresses weeds until the crop canopy closes providing additional weed suppression. However, few on farm trials of the roll down technique have been successful due to a variety of weather, pest and farmer oversight related problems. Some trials have been conducted in other regions where differing climatic conditions required use of cover crops not appropriate for this region. Here we propose to test the organic roll down technique in comparison to a control where cover crops are disked into the soil surface. This will allow the collaborating grower to compare yield and weed suppression between the organic no-tillage method and his general best management practices. The results of this trial will be shared with other growers through two farmer field days and articles in the Penn State University “Small Fruit and Vegetable Gazette”.
In spring of 2009 soil will be prepared and a cover crop of rye and vetch planted by the farmer counterpart.
In June of 2009 the cover crop will be rolled down and pumpkins planted by the farmer and his interns.
In July-Sept 2009 Weed biomass samples will be taken and processed by DuPont with the help of one intern.
In Aug 2009 A Field day will be organized by extension educator DuPont for farmers.
In Sept 2009 Pumpkin harvest for yield will be done by DuPont and one intern and total harvest will be done by Devault’s intern crew.
A cover crop of oats was planted in the Spring of 2009. However due to unusually wet spring weather it was difficult to get the cover crop established early enough or work the ground well before establishment. As a result, the cover crop did not establish well. It was not possible to roll the cover crop and plant pumpkins. With a patchy cover crops stand, rolling would have lead to a weed filled pumpkin field and much wasted time in evaluation of crops and weeds.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Cover crop failure has prohibited significant results in year 1. The experiment will continue at a different farm with a more experienced producer Tim Boch in year 2.
Wills Daal Farm
Kutztown, PA 19530