- Vegetables: onions, tomatoes
- Crop Production: cover crops, intercropping, application rate management, tissue analysis
- Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research, participatory research, workshop
- Farm Business Management: budgets/cost and returns, agricultural finance
- Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization
- Pest Management: allelopathy, chemical control, competition, cultural control, economic threshold, integrated pest management, mulches - living, mulching - plastic, row covers (for pests), mulching - vegetative
- Production Systems: organic agriculture
- Soil Management: green manures
- Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures
Plasticulture production of vegetables has been widely adopted in the Northeast providing farmers with in-row weed control, soil moisture regulation and season extension. However, the bare row middles that are part of this plasticulture system threaten sustainability by requiring herbicide and/or cultivation inputs which increase environmental impact by impairing water quality, decreasing soil organic matter levels and increasing hand labor inputs. Our project will evaluate a new use of cover crops, by sowing a winter rye grain between plastic-mulched beds of tomatoes and onions on two cooperating farms.
Project objectives from proposal:
At one farm tomatoes will be grown with spring-sown rye row-middles, cultivated row-middles and an herbicide standard. Another farm is committed to growing onions under the same set of treatments. The impact of using rye instead of herbicides or cultivation will be measured by collecting data on multiple blocks within each treatment. This data will include crop yields (weight and number), disease levels, foliar nutrient levels and hours/salary spent on weeding labor. Our results will shared through an on-farm demonstration meeting, 50 farm visits by the project leader, winter educational meetings reaching 300 farmers throughout the state, biweekly in-season social media posts, webpage, and numerous print articles in industry publications. If successful, the project team plans to continue the research to include other grains and the use of biodegradable mulch to achieve a higher degree of sustainability for conventional and organic Northeast vegetable farmers.