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. In 2010 Tim Bock of Wills Daal Farm planted soybeans into five strips each of rolled down rye cover crop and soil moldboard plowed/disked. Weed biomass was measured twice and soybeans harvested for yield at the end of the season. Preliminary results were shared at a field day through articles in Penn State’s Field Crop News and local newsletter.
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 the intern crew.
ADDED OBJECTIVES: Field trials will continue in 2010 and 2011 and data will be collected and summarized.
Equipment – Cultivator – John Deere front mounted 2 row on JD B
Drill Rye- John Deere Press Wheel
Drill soybeans – Monosem vacuum,
4 – 30″ rows in cultivated plots and 7 – 15″ rows in rolled
Soybeans – Blue River Hybrids 34A7
Field Setup- We broke a 3 acre field up into 10 strips 350’ long and 30’ wide. We paired strips into 5 blocks, each with two strips. Within each block we randomly assigned a strip to either the roll down or cultivated treatment.
• Sept 8, 2009 entire field was plowed
• Sept 15, 2009 one pass with a field cultivator, rye planted 3 bu/ acre
• May 13, 2010 rotary mowed strips
• May 15, 2010 rotary mow 2nd time
• May 15, 2010
o disc 5 times (disc set as aggressive as possible)
o plowed with 4 bottom plow
• May 16, 2010
o Disked 2 times (There was still too much residue).
• May 17, 2010
o 1 pass with field cultivator
• May 21, 2010
o Soybeans planted every 2 inches
• May 26, 2010
o Lely rod weeder (tine weeder) set on 3 – aggressive but not overly
• June 8, 2010
o Cultivation with belly mounted cultivator
• May 21, 2010
o Rolled and planted soybeans every 2”
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
2010 trial results:
Rye Cover Crop – Rye cover crop biomass was not different between treatments 1.7 T/A dry matter in cultivated plots and 1.8 T/A dry matter in rolled plots.
Soybean Population –Planted every 2” Cultivated (30” rows) = 104,544 seeds/ A; Rolled (15” rows) = 209,000 seeds/ A.
Weed Biomass – Weed biomass was significantly higher in cultivated plots compared to rolled plots. On average cultivated plots had 2,217 lb/A of weed biomass versus only 61 lb/A in rolled plots.
Yield – Due to drought conditions soybeans yields were extremely eradic in the region. Wills Daal Farm is located on steep shaly ground that was extremely droughty, thus yields were low in both plots. Average yields in rolled cover crop soybeam plots were 13 bu/ A and in cultivated plots were 3 bu/ A normalized to 14% moisture.
Roll Down for Organic Row Crops Field Day – 13 farmers and 6 advisors attended this field day demonstrating the weed suppressive effects of rolled down rye no-till planted to soybeans. The farmer and educators explained the results of current field research at the farm.
• 13 participating farmers manage over 3,350 acres accumulatively between the group.
• 91% learned a moderate to a large amount as a result of this workshop.
• 50% said they were moderately likely, and 40% extremely likely to adopt a new practice such as roll downed cover crops as a result of the workshop. “I would like to increase my use of roll down,” one participant said.
Wills Daal Farm
Kutztown, PA 19530