Muskmelon and Sweet Corn Production with Legume Cover Crops

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  • 1 Agricultural Research Station, Box 9061, Virginia State University, Petersburg, VA 23806

Winter legume cover crops have been successfully used to meet N needs of many summer crops, but they are not being used extensively in Virginia and the mid-Atlantic region, especially for specialty crops such as muskmelon and sweet corn. The objective of these studies was to determine the potential of winter legume cover crops in meeting N needs of muskmelon (Cucumis melo L.) and sweet corn (Zea mays L.). Comparisons of performances of muskmelon and sweet corn, grown after lupin (Lupinus albus L.), hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth.), Austrian winter pea ([AWP] Pisum arvense L.), and control fertilized with 112 kg N ha–1, and unfertilized control were made during 1999, 2000, and 2001. The interactions between cover crop treatments and years were, generally, significant. The muskmelon fruit yields were 53.6, 45.0, 23.1, 13.0, and 5.6 Mg·ha–1 during 1999; 27.8, 26.3, 8.6, 5.8, and 2.2 Mg·ha–1 during 2000; and 41.1, 39.9, 25.5, 21.4, and 2.1 Mg·ha–1 during 2001 respectively for lupin, hairy vetch, AWP, 112 kg N ha–1, and control. Similar results were obtained for number and size of muskmelon fruits. The sweet corn ear yields (Mg·ha–1) were 8.5, 5.6, 3.1, 1.5, and 0.7 during 1999; 5.2, 3.9, 4.0, 4.8, and 1.2 during 2000; and 2.6, 2.4, 1.9, 2.0, and 0.9 during 2001, respectively for lupin, hairy vetch, AWP, 112 kg N ha–1, and control. White lupin and hairy vetch, as winter cover crops, were superior than AWP and 112 kg N ha–1 for sweet corn ear number and size, and plant height. These results demonstrated that winter legume crops, especially lupin and hairy vetch, can be excellent winter cover crops for meeting N needs of muskmelon and sweet corn.

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