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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: ORGANIC AND REDUCED INPUT FRESH MARKET SPECIALTY CROP PRODUCTION SYSTEMS FOR THE SOUTHERN GREAT PLAINS Title: Cover crops and vegetable rotations

Authors
item Roberts, B -
item Shrefler, James -
item Taylor, Merritt -
item Webber, Charles

Submitted to: Horticulture Industries Show
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: March 1, 2010
Publication Date: March 15, 2010
Citation: Roberts, B.W., Shrefler, J.W., Taylor, M.J., Webber III , C.L. 2010. Cover crops and vegetable rotations. In: Proceedings of the 29th Annual Horticulture Industries Show, January 8-9, 2010, Tulsa, Oklahoma. p. 148-151.

Interpretive Summary: Knowing that winter cover crops can benefit the environment and subsequent crops, and knowing which cover crops to utilize can be two different issues. Research was conducted at the Lane Agricultural Center in southeastern Oklahoma to determine impact of cover crops on three vegetable crops. The eight cover crops, planted in September 2008, included four legumes [crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum L.), arrowleaf clover (Trifolium vesiculosum Savi), yellow sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis (L) Lam.), and hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth)] and four grasses [oats (Avena sativa L.), rye (Secale cereale L.), wheat (Triticum spp. L.), and ryegrass (Lolium perenne L. ssp. multiflorum (Lam.) Husnot)]. The crops were grown from late-fall, through winter, and early spring. In April of 2009, half of each plot was mowed, divided into sections, and planted to sweet corn (Zea mays L.), southern peas (Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.), or sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.). Poultry litter was applied at 1 t/a and tilled into the soil prior to planting vegetables. Crop yields and weed ratings were collected for each cropping rotation. It was too wet to harvest sweet potatoes. Arrowleaf clover produced the greatest cover crop yields (4.7 t/a) compared to rye (3.3 t/a), ryegrass (3.0 t/a), wheat (2.4 t/a), oats (1.9 t/a), yellow sweet clover (1.9 t/a) and crimson clover (1.6 t/a), and hairy vetch (1.4 t/a). The highest yielding cover crops (arrowleaf clover, rye, and ryegrass) also reduced grass weeds the most. Nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus L.) populations were fairly constant across cover crops, except for wheat which resulted in greater nutsedge populations. Sweet corn produced better yields with the four legume crops compared to the non-legumes. Southern pea yields were similar with all cover crops. Crimson clover and hairy vetch, as earlier maturing crops, appear to be well suited for cropping systems that would require early soil preparations for early spring vegetable crops. Although this is only the first year of the experiment, there are indications that selection of an appropriate cover crop could be a valuable tool in reducing weed populations and increasing vegetable yields.

Technical Abstract: Farmers have long known that winter cover crops can decrease soil erosion, increase soil organic matter and fertility, and provide a beneficial impact on the following crop, but it is not always known which cover crop will provide the best results for a specific region and cropping system. Research was conducted at the Lane Agricultural Center in southeastern Oklahoma to determine impact of cover crops on three vegetable crops. The eight cover crops, planted in September 2008, included four legumes [crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum L.), arrowleaf clover (Trifolium vesiculosum Savi), yellow sweet clover (Melilotus officinalis (L) Lam.), and hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth)] and four grasses [oats (Avena sativa L.), rye (Secale cereale L.), wheat (Triticum spp. L.), and ryegrass (Lolium perenne L. ssp. multiflorum (Lam.) Husnot)]. The crops were grown from late-fall, through winter, and early spring. In April of 2009, half of each plot was mowed, divided into sections, and planted to sweet corn (Zea mays L.), southern peas (Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.), or sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas (L.) Lam.). Poultry litter was applied at 1 t/a and tilled into the soil prior to planting vegetables. Crop yields and weed ratings were collected for each cropping rotation. It was too wet to harvest sweet potatoes. Arrowleaf clover produced the greatest cover crop yields (4.7 t/a) compared to rye (3.3 t/a), ryegrass (3.0 t/a), wheat (2.4 t/a), oats (1.9 t/a), yellow sweet clover (1.9 t/a) and crimson clover (1.6 t/a), and hairy vetch (1.4 t/a). The highest yielding cover crops (arrowleaf clover, rye, and ryegrass) also reduced grass weeds the most. Nutsedge (Cyperus esculentus L.) populations were fairly constant across cover crops, except for wheat which resulted in greater nutsedge populations. Sweet corn produced better yields with the four legume crops compared to the non-legumes. Southern pea yields were similar with all cover crops. Crimson clover and hairy vetch, as earlier maturing crops, appear to be well suited for cropping systems that would require early soil preparations for early spring vegetable crops. Although this is only the first year of the experiment, there are indications that selection of an appropriate cover crop could be a valuable tool in reducing weed populations and increasing vegetable yields.

Last Modified: 10/24/2014
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