The Utility of Crotalaria juncea as a Cover Crop in a Temperate Climate

2009 Annual Report for ONE09-105

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2009: $9,644.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Northeast
State: West Virginia
Project Leader:
Dr. Gerald Leather
West Virginia University

The Utility of Crotalaria juncea as a Cover Crop in a Temperate Climate


Field experimental plots were established at the farms of two cooperators in Hampshire County WV to evaluate several cover crops in a young peach orchard and in vegetable cropping. This is a multi-year project to determine how sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea), compares to other cover crops in weed control, soil fertility, and nematode populations. Although severe drought and deer damage affected cover crop growth, differences in weed control were noted among the cover crops and there were some differences in peach tree growth. Because of the drought, the vegetable crop was lost and season-end soil samples for nematodes were not taken. The trials will be repeated using the same plots with additional plots to hopefully obtain first – year data on nematodes and soil fertility. The orchard research area was part of a Fruit Growers Demonstration Tour in August.

Objectives/Performance Targets

We will measure the overall production of buckwheat, hairy vetch, and sunn hemp to compare their suitability as a cover crop in orchard and vegetable farming systems.

We will determine by soil sampling if there are differences among the cover crops and farming systems on total soil nitrogen, inorganic N, P, K, and nematode populations.

We will evaluate the weed populations in all systems during each growing season and in seasons following cover crop plantings.

Production of vegetables planted in the cover crop residues will be determined by weight at harvest. Trunk circumference increase will be used to determine growth of the young peach trees.


Although there was deer damage, the late summer seeded sunn hemp (a tropical plant) survived the first frost in this area of WV allowing for an additional two weeks of growth. Soil analysis of nematode populations before cover crop planting in the orchard site, was lacking in a number of species normally found in orchards. Repeat of the experiments over the next two years may determine if either of these observations are anomalies.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

Assessment of impacts will of necessity be delayed until the completion of the experiments in time and space.


Rakesh Chandran

[email protected]
Extension Specialist
WVU Extension Service
P.O. Box 6108
Room 1076 Ag. Sci. Bldg.
Morgantown, WV 26506-6108
Office Phone: 3042936131
James Kotcon

[email protected]
Associate Professor
West virginia University
P.O. Box 6108
G105 So. Agric. Sci. Bldg.
Morgantown, WV 26506
Office Phone: 3042933911
Steve Martin

Church View Farm
HC 64, Box 2027
Romney, WV 26757
Office Phone: 3048223878
Kane Shanholtz

Shanholtz Orchard
HC 64, Box 400
Romney, WV 26757
Office Phone: 3048225827