EVALUATION OF LIVING MULCH SYSTEMS FOR RABBITEYE BLUEBERRY PRODUCTION

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  • 1 Texas Agricultural Experiment Station, Overton, Texas 75684

Blueberry production is enhanced by the use of an organic mulch. An alternative to off-farm sources of mulch is the production of winter and summer living mulch cover crops grown in the row middles of the blueberry planting. These crops are mowed and then windrowed for use as a mulch. We evaluated living mulch crops for blueberries for the following parameters: adaptation to low soil pH, mulch production, ease and cost of stand establishment, mowing tolerance, allelopathic weed control, and N contributed by mulch. Rye, ryegrass, and crimson clover were the most overall suitable crops for the winter; while for summer, pearl millet was best adapted. Nitrogen was the major limiting factor that affected nonlegume production. Legume yields were limited by deer foraging and low soil pH. Pearl millet had the greatest allelopathic response on weeds of all cover crops tested. Maximum dry matter production for the living mulches ranged from 6000 kg/ha for elbon rye in the winter, to 30,000 kg/ha for pearl millet in the summer. With the appropriate cover crop selection and adequate soil fertility living mulches appear to be a efficacious practice to aid blueberry production in the south.

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