Underseeding Clover in Organic Wheat to Reduce Mycotoxins and Improve Grain Quality

Project Overview

Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2011: $14,728.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Northeast
State: Vermont
Project Leader:
Dr. Sid Bosworth
University of Vermont

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: wheat


  • Crop Production: intercropping
  • Education and Training: extension, on-farm/ranch research
  • Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns
  • Pest Management: cultural control, mulches - living, physical control, weed ecology
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    Grain contamination due to the mycotoxin deoxynivalenol (DON) caused by the disease Fusarium head blight (FHB) is perhaps the greatest challenge to organic wheat production in Vermont. Vermont wheat producers who do not meet the DON guidelines set by the FDA for human
    consumption often sell grain as animal feed and receive nearly half the price offered for organic flour. Although weather can have an influence on FHB and DON, cultural practices, such as underseeding clover, can also be important in minimizing these risks. This partnership project will investigate the practice of underseeding clover in winter wheat and its possible implications for DON concentrations in grain, grain protein content, and grain yield, with the underlying goal of reducing farmer’s risks of mycotoxin contamination in wheat. Any positive associations found between wheat-clover intercropping and desired grain quality may further incentivize Vermont producers to consider incorporating this sustainable agricultural practice in the Northeast, thereby
    improving the marketability of locally produced organic wheat for bread flour and increasing profits to Vermont farmers.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    This partnership experiment aims to reduce FHB infections and deoxynivalenol (DON) levels in a second-year wheat rotation scenario on the farm of Tom Keenyon in Charlotte, VT. The proposed solution is to test two types of clover understory that cover soil and residues, blocking splash dispersal of Fusarium spp. spores by, thus reducing overall Fusarium infection, DON contamination, and degradation of organic wheat quality. This proposed solution is an improved modification of a 2010 small-plot experiment we conducted at three Vermont locations with similar intentions; however, the partnership will allow us to expand to a larger scale and use clover seeding rates more practical for farmers. Through this partnership project, we will generate needed information about clover underseeding of various clover types and how such practices impact grain quality and local wheat production.

    Results will be disseminated to farmers that may use the practices through the following means: UVM Crops and Soils web page, on-site field day in July 2011, newsletter articles in the Northern Grain Grower Association news, presentation at the 2012 Annual Vermont Grain Conference.

    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.