Offseason Management for Organic High Tunnels for Improved Pest Suppression and Soil Health

Project Overview

Project Type: On-Farm Research
Funds awarded in 2012: $14,967.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2013
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Carlene Chase
University of Florida


  • Vegetables: cucurbits, tomatoes


  • Crop Production: crop rotation, cover crops
  • Education and Training: on-farm/ranch research, participatory research
  • Pest Management: cultural control, physical control, mulching - plastic, soil solarization

    Proposal abstract:

    Three new cowpea germplasm releases recently became available that were developed for use as cover crops by the USDA-ARS Vegetable Laboratory in South Carolina. Like the current standard (Iron Clay cowpea) these lines are root-knot nematode resistant. The advantage of these over Iron Clay is that they do not produce hard seed. Hard-seeded legumes can themselves become weed problems if the cover crop sets seed before the grower is able to terminate the cover crop. The proposed research will be conducted in St. Cloud in central Florida in a certified organic high tunnel at the Organic Country Farm. Four cowpea germplasm lines will be evaluated: US-1136, US-1137, US-1138 and Iron Clay. These cover crops will be compared to soil solarization, cowpea followed by soil solarization, a weed-free control, and a weedy control for the off-season management of weeds and root-knot nematodes. Off-season management will be followed by the production of grafted and nongrafted cucumber in fall 2012 and grafted and nongrafted tomato production in spring 2013. The persistence of weed and root-knot suppression will be evaluated during the cash crops.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    To utilize cover cropping and soil solarization to simultaneously suppress weeds and root-knot nematodes during the off-season in organically managed high tunnels.

    To compare the effects of the treatments on fall and spring cash crop production.

    To evaluate what changes in soil quality occur in response to off-season treatments and sequential drip-irrigated cash crop production.

    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.