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Derek M. Law and Brent Rowell

A 2-yearfield study in Lexington, Ky., evaluated the use of mulches in two organic production systems for bell peppers. Two planting strategies, flat ground and plastic-covered raised beds, and five weed control practices, straw mulch, compost mulch, wood chip mulch, corn gluten, and “living mulch” clover were tested. In 2003, the mulches were applied at planting, while in 2004, shallow soil cultivation was used for 6 weeks prior to mulch application. In 2003, the experimental field had been under a winter wheat cover crop; in 2004, the field had been cover cropped for more than a year prior to planting with sudex/cowpea (Summer 2003) and rye/hairy vetch (Winter/Spring 2004). Bell pepper yields in both bed treatments were very low in 2003 due to extensive weed competition. In 2004, plastic-covered raised beds coupled with mulching in-between beds resulted in significantly higher yields than the peppers grown on flat ground. These yields were as high as yields from a conventional pepper trial conducted on the same farm. Compost mulch, continuous cultivation, and wood chip mulch provided excellent weed control in 2004. Straw mulch was variable in its weed control efficacy; corn gluten and “living mulch” clover were ineffective.

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Timothy Coolong, Derek M. Law, John C. Snyder, Brent Rowell, and Mark A. Williams

Thirty-eight leafy greens, eight kale (Brassica oleracea acephala group), nine mustard (Brassica juncea), six arugula (Eruca sativa), five swiss chard (Beta vulgaris var. cicla), five collards (B. oleracea acephala group), and five turnip (Brassica rapa ssp. rapa) varieties were evaluated during Spring and Fall 2007–08 to determine suitability for organic production with respect to yield and stability. Trials were conducted on certified organic land using organic production practices. For mustard, kale, collards, and arugula, there were significant variety by season by year interactions. Despite these interactions, some varieties consistently performed well throughout the trial. ‘Florida Broadleaf’ was the highest yielding mustard in three of the four seasons evaluated. ‘Siberian’, ‘White Russian’, and ‘Red Russian’ were in the highest yielding group of kale varieties for overall yield. For collards, ‘Georgia/Southern’ and ‘Flash’ were part of the highest yielding group as determined by Duncan’s multiple range test in three of the four seasons examined. Turnip and swiss chard had significant year by variety interactions. Overall yields of ‘Alamo’ and ‘Alltop’, both F1 hybrids, were better than other turnip varieties assessed. Despite the interaction, ‘Fordhook Giant’ had superior yields in both years of the study. Arugula performance was significantly and negatively affected in Spring 2008. Overall, ‘Astro’, ‘Apollo’, and ‘Arugula’ had the greatest yields. This trial was designed to provide recommendations specifically for organic growers marketing directly to consumers.

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Derek M. Law, A. Brent Rowell, John C. Snyder, and Mark A. Williams

A 2-year field study in Lexington, Ky., evaluated weed control efficacy and influence on yields of several organic mulches in two organically managed bell pepper (Capsicum annuum) production systems. Five weed control treatments [straw, compost, wood chips, undersown white dutch clover (Trifolium repens) “living mulch,” and the organically approved herbicide corn gluten] were applied to two production systems consisting of peppers planted in double rows in either flat, bare ground or on black polyethylene-covered raised beds. In the first year, treatments were applied at transplanting and no treatment was found to provide acceptable season-long weed control. As a result, bell pepper yields in both production systems were very low due to extensive weed competition. First year failures in weed control required a modification of the experimental protocol in the second year such that treatment application was delayed for 6 weeks, during which time three shallow cultivations were used to reduce early weed pressure and extend the control provided by the mulches. This approach increased the average weed control rating provided by the mulches from 45% in 2003 to 86% in 2004, and resulted in greatly improved yields. In both years, polyethylene-covered raised beds produced higher yields than the flat, bare ground system (8310 lb/acre compared to 1012 lb/acre in 2003 and 42,900 lb/acre compared to 29,700 lb/acre in 2004). In the second year, the polyethylene-covered bed system coupled with mulching in-between beds with compost or wood chips provided excellent weed control and yields. When using the wood chip mulch, which was obtained at no cost, net returns were $5587/acre, which is similar to typical returns for conventionally grown peppers in Kentucky. Net returns were substantially decreased when using compost due to the purchase cost. Results from this study indicate that shallow cultivation following transplanting, combined with midseason mulch application, resulted in high yields in an organically managed bell pepper system that were comparable to yields of most varieties grown conventionally in a variety trial conducted on the same farm.