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Helene Murray, Donald L. Wyse and Emily E. Hoover

Minnesota has a long history of strong citizen involvement in environmental, community development, economic development, and human rights issues. Therefore, it is not surprising there are many individuals, organizations, communities, and educational institutions in Minnesota actively involved in the sustainable agriculture debate. The challenge we face is how to help these strong forces work in collaboration to solve rural problem s.

In 1990 representatives of five community-based organizations and the U of M agreed to form the Minnesota Institute for Sustainable Agriculture (MISA) to be housed at the University and governed by a board of community and University representatives. The purpose of MISA is to bring farmers and other sustainable agriculture community interests together with University administrators, educators, researchers, and students in a cooperative effort to undertake innovative, agenda-setting programs that might not otherwise be pursued in the state.

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Michael Kantar, Kevin Betts, Brent S. Hulke, Robert M. Stupar and Donald Wyse

Tubers of Helianthus tuberosus L. are dormant after production in the late fall until the next spring. In the wild, tuber dormancy is broken after exposure to winter cold, resulting in sprouting and shoot development in the spring when conditions are favorable. The dormancy period typically limits H. tuberosus populations to one growth cycle per year. An efficient method for breaking tuber dormancy is needed to have an additional growth cycle per year in a breeding program, which could take place in winter in the nursery or the greenhouse allowing for increased breeding efficiency. The objective of this research was to compare chemical and cold temperature treatments for artificially breaking tuber dormancy in 12 genotypes of H. tuberosus and interspecific hybrids of Helianthus annuus L. × H. tuberosus. Five cold exposures (2, 4, 6, 8, 10 weeks at 2 °C), three plant hormones (ethylene, cytokinin, and gibberellic acid), and one untreated control were examined. Gibberellic acid was the best chemical treatment, initiating plant growth within 6.5 to 11.5 days in the majority of genotypes tested. The best cold treatment was exposure to 2 °C for 8 weeks, where plant growth began 63.6 to 67.5 days after treatment initiation. Although longer cold treatments shortened the time to emergence while in the greenhouse, the penalty of the long cold treatment per se was too long to be useful. The gibberellic acid treatment strategy described here may not need further optimization, because it is short enough to allow for two growth cycles of H. tuberosus per year.

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Matthew J. Leavitt, Craig C. Sheaffer, Donald L. Wyse and Deborah L. Allan

Winter annual cover crops, winter rye (Secale cereale L.) and hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth), can reduce weed density and build soil quality in organic production systems. There is interest in integrating cover crops and reduced tillage with organic vegetable production, but few studies have been conducted in regions with short growing seasons and cool soils such as the upper Midwest. We evaluated no-tillage production of tomato (Solanum lycopersicum L.), zucchini (Cucurbita pepo L.), and bell pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) planted into winter rye, hairy vetch, and a winter rye/hairy vetch (WR/HV) mixture that were mechanically suppressed with a roller–crimper at two locations in Minnesota. Average marketable yields of tomato, zucchini, and bell pepper in the rolled cover crops were reduced 89%, 77%, and 92% in 2008 and 65%, 41%, and 79% in 2009, respectively, compared with a no-cover control. Winter rye and the WR/HV mixture reduced average annual weed density at St. Paul by 96% for 8 to 10 weeks after rolling (WAR) and hairy vetch mulch reduced weeds 80% for 2 to 8 WAR, whereas at Lamberton, there was no consistent effect of cover treatments on weed populations. Winter rye and the WR/HV mixture had higher average residue biomass (5.3 and 5.7 Mg·ha−1, respectively) than hairy vetch (3.0 Mg·ha−1) throughout the season. Soil growing degree-days (SGDD) were lower in cover crop treatments compared with the no-cover control, which could have delayed early vegetable growth and contributed to reduced yields. All cover crop mulches were associated with low levels of soil nitrogen (N) (less than 10 mg·kg−1 N) in the upper 15 cm. Rolled winter annual cover crops show promise for controlling annual weeds in organic no-tillage systems, but additional research is needed on methods to increase vegetable crop yields in rolled cover crops.