Sustainable Vegetable Production: Screening Cover Crops for Water Use Efficiency

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2007: $118,411.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Western
State: Utah
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Daniel Drost
Utah State University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Fruits: melons
  • Vegetables: beans


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: cover crops, nutrient cycling, application rate management
  • Education and Training: demonstration, display, extension, networking
  • Pest Management: field monitoring/scouting, precision herbicide use
  • Production Systems: general crop production
  • Soil Management: green manures, organic matter, soil analysis, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: sustainability measures


    Due to unexpected circumstances and personnel problems, much of the data was lost, and the data collected was of little value. Based on ancillary observations, there appears to be differences in drought tolerance within the different cover crops evaluated. We are continuing to investigate the central hypotheses that “winter and summer cover crops enhance nutrient cycling, reduce weed pressure and improve soil quality.” Grower cooperators note fall-seeded cover crop (wheat, barley) establishment is difficult under dry conditions. Growers continue to use cover crops and are interested in cover crops to take advantage of the known benefits.

    Project objectives:

    1. To identify and evaluate winter cover crops that can help improve early plant establishment (reducing wind erosion effects and soil crusting) while minimizing interference with plant growth and soil water storage and while contributing to better farm nutrient management and soil quality;
    2. To identify and evaluate summer cover crops that can help improve nutrient cycling and late season weed management while minimizing water establishment requirements;
    3. To conduct these studies in a variety of different climatic conditions (regional within Utah), with different vegetable crops (cucurbits, tomatoes, corn, other crops) and cropping systems (organic and non-organic);
    4. To disseminate this information to Utah’s farmers, service agencies and other potential user groups at farm field days, through print and electronic media and at state, regional and national meetings.
    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.