Research began in 1999 to examine sustainable production of bell peppers (Capsicum annuum L.) using conservation tillage and legume winter cover crops. Tillage treatments included conventional tillage, strip-tillage, and no-tillage, and winter covers consisted of hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth), winter rye (Secale cereale L.), and a vetch/rye biculture. Pepper yields following the rye winter cover crop were significantly reduced if inorganic N fertilizer was not supplied. However, following vetch, yields of peppers receiving no additional N were similar to yields obtained in treatments receiving the recommended rate of inorganic N fertilizer. Thus, vetch supplied sufficient N to peppers in terms of yields. Pepper yields following the biculture cover crop were intermediate between those obtained following vetch and rye. When weeds were controlled manually, pepper yields following biculture cover crops were similar among the three tillage treatments, indicating that no-tillage and strip-tillage could be used successfully if weeds were controlled. With no-tillage, yields were reduced without weed control but the reduction was less if twice the amount of residual cover crop surface mulch was used. Without manual weed control, pepper yields obtained using strip-tillage were reduced regardless of metolachlor herbicide application. It was concluded that a vetch winter cover crop could satisfy N requirements of peppers and that effective chemical or mechanical weed control methods need to be developed in order to grow peppers successfully using no-tillage or strip-tillage.
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