Comparison of Two Methods to Evaluate Water Use by Row Middle Cover Crops in Fruit Plantings

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  • 1 Cornell Univ., New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Geneva, NY 14456

Cover crops are of increasing interest in fruit plantings. Previous studies indicated that, in unirrigated New York vineyards, effects of row middle cover crops is primarily competition for soil water. Row middle management trials in `Concord' vineyards compared cover crops (orchardgrass, bluegrass, vetch, clover, and rye) to straw mulch, bloom glyphosate, and cultivation for water use patterns. Neutron probe tubes within each plot were read weekly at 15-cm intervals down to 120 cm. A second method to examine water use patterns used double florist pots with native soil sunken within the plots to provide a removable sample of the cover. These pots were lifted and weighed at intervals to examine in situ water use. The pot weight loss data generally correlated well with the neutron probe data. Precautions are needed related to differences in natural rooting depth, more rapid drying of pot vs. normal soil volume and representativeness of plant cover and health. The neutron probe method gives more complete data, but the pot method may be a useful simple, inexpensive method of examining relative water use patterns of cover crops with natural boundary layers that exist in discontinuous fruit plantings.

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