(14) Establishment of Buckwheat as a Summer Cover Crop after Early Vegetables

in HortScience

Buckwheat has historically been used to suppress weeds and improve soil condition, but many of the tricks to success have been lost to history. Buckwheat is inexpensive and particularly effective in short windows between crops. We are documenting the techniques of existing experts and complementing that with research. We surveyed northeastern vegetable and strawberry growers to identify what information they need in order to feel confident that they could succeed with a buckwheat cover crop. Top questions include seed availability, types of weeds controlled, relation to other cover crops, volunteer management, and herbicide tolerance. One question tested experimentally was how to establish a full stand with minimum cost. We tested the minimum tillage requirement following pea harvest. No-till resulted in good emergence but slow growth, and dominance by weeds. Disk incorporating the pea residue resulted in excellent growth, which was not further enhanced by chisel plowing before disking. Buckwheat seedlings are intolerant of waterlogging, so deeper tillage may be important in wet years. Sowing buckwheat immediately after tillage resulted in emergence of 35%, leaving gaps large enough for weeds to grow. Waiting 1 week gave an 80% stand and complete weed suppression. Waiting 2 weeks also gave an 80% stand, but weed growth was advanced enough that weed suppression was incomplete. Therefore, a buckwheat cover crop following early vegetables requires light tillage to permit root growth, and up to a week of decomposition. If those provisions are made, complete weed suppression is obtainable.

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