Improving Garlic Using Wheat Straw Mulch

in HortScience
Author:
Angela M. O'CallaghanDept. of Fruit and Vegetable Science, 163 Plant Science, Cornell Univ., Ithaca, NY 14853

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Garlic (Allium sativum L.) has been cultivated in much of the world for millennia. Little scientific research, however, has focused on improving cultural conditions for production in the temperate regions of the northeastern United States, where garlic is gaining importance as a horticultural crop. To study the effectiveness of wheat straw (Triticum aestivum) mulch on garlic, experiments were conducted at the Cornell Univ. research facilities in East Ithaca, N.Y., during the 1993–94 (year 1) and 1994–95 (year 2) growing seasons and at the Homer C. Thompson Vegetable Research Farm, Freeville, N.Y., during the 1994–95 growing season. Two clones, one bolting and one nonbolting, were studied in year 1, and four varieties, three bolting and one non bolting, in year 2. All were fall-planted (mid-October), and mulch treatments were covered with wheat straw early in the following December. Control plots were not covered. The mulch either remained on the crop throughout the growing season or was removed early in the spring to expedite soil warming. This is the common practice among growers who use mulch only for winter protection. The presence of mulch during the winter increased the survival rate. Soil temperatures under the wheat straw were significantly lower during the summer than soil temperatures in unmulched plots, which could have contributed to the increase found in the yield and average bulb size of several of the cultivars. Maintaining the mulch through the entire growing season reduced weed pressure >30%. We found no significant increase in the amount of basal fungal infection. The results indicate that using straw mulch can improve garlic produced in the northeastern United States.

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