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Ted S. Kornecki and Francisco J. Arriaga

A 4-year experiment with different tillage practices for tomatoes was conducted in Cullman, AL, to determine the impact of plastic mulch (control), rye and crimson clover cover crops, and different subsoiler shanks (no shank, slim 13 mm thick and wide 20 mm thick) on tomato yield. Overall, during 2007 and 2008 growing seasons, total tomato yields (between 58,905 and 60,115 kg·ha−1) and marketable tomato yields (between 48,331 and 49,873 kg·ha−1) were significantly higher than in 2005 and 2006 (between 49,656 and 50,151 kg·ha−1 and from 40,581 to 41,194 kg·ha−1) for total and marketable tomato yields, respectively. During the 2006 and 2008 growing seasons, plastic cover provided higher yield (60,921 and 73,718 kg·ha−1) compared with rye and crimson clover overall shank treatments. In 2007, higher yield was produced following rye without shank (70,577 kg·ha−1) compared with plastic mulch and crimson clover treatments. Across years, tomato yield after crimson clover was lower compared with rye and plastic. Percent of marketable fruit yield to total yield exceeded 80% in all treatments, including the plastic control. Cover crops and shank treatments did not affect percentage of marketable tomato yield compared with total tomato yield. Cover crops, especially rye, can provide an alternative in tomato production for those producers not wanting to use plastic mulches.

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Ted S. Kornecki, Francisco J. Arriaga, and Andrew J. Price

A field experiment was conducted in Cullman, AL, to evaluate the effects of three different rollers/crimpers on the termination of a rye (Secale cereale L) winter cover crop, soil moisture, and yield of sweet corn (Zea mays saccharata L.) in a no-till system. The following roller types were tested: a straight bar roller, a smooth roller with crimper, and a two-stage roller. These rollers were tested at operating speeds of 3.2 km·h−1 and 6.4 km·h−1. The three rollers/crimpers were compared with a smooth drum roller (no crimping bars) plus glyphosate applied at rate 1.0 kg·ha−1 used as a control. Rye termination dates were selected to be 3 weeks before the recommended sweet corn planting date, which is in the beginning of May for this region. Data indicate that at 3 weeks after rolling for all seasons (2006–2008), 100% rye termination was reached with the smooth drum roller and glyphosate. Two weeks after rolling, average rye termination rates by rollers/crimpers alone were 54.6%, 30.0%, and 50.4% in 2006, 2007, and 2008, respectively. Three weeks after rolling, rye termination rates increased only by ≈10% compared with 2 weeks after rolling. These termination levels were below the recommended rate of 90% termination necessary for planting a cash crop into the cover residue. Lower rye termination was probably caused by rolling the rye in an early growth stage (flowering stage). The rollers’ operating speed did not influence rye termination rates. Similarly, roller type did not affect soil moisture during the first and second week after rolling. Applying glyphosate with rolling did not increase yield of sweet corn in any of the three growing seasons, and in 2006, sweet corn yield was lower compared with the roller alone treatments. These results are important to vegetable organic systems, in which use of herbicides is not allowed. No significant difference in sweet corn yield was found between operating speeds of 3.2 km·h−1 vs. 6.4 km·h−1 and between the assigned treatments in all growing seasons. However, significant differences in sweet corn yield were detected between the years, most likely as a result of different weather patterns. The lowest sweet corn yield of 3513 kg·ha−1 was reported in 2007 as a result of severe drought in spring and summer of 2007. The highest yield of 15,613 kg·ha−1 was recorded in 2006. In 2008, the yield was 10,158 kg·ha−1. Although the different roller designs were not as effective in ending the rye cover crop compared with the glyphosate treatment, sweet corn yields were unaffected. Multiple rolling operations over the same area could be useful if greater rye termination levels are required without the use of a herbicide, but this recommendation should be tested experimentally in more detail.

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Kate A. Ivancic, Matthew D. Ruark, Francisco J. Arriaga, and Erin M. Silva

Spring-planted green manure cover crops may provide a nitrogen (N) benefit to a subsequent sweet corn (Zea mays L.) crop, but spring growth and lack of consistent benefits documented in previous studies provide limitations to adoption. Berseem clover (BC; Trifolium alexandrinum) and chickling vetch (CV; Lathyrus sativus L.) are two legumes that could be beneficial when spring-seeded, but they have not been well studied in this context. The objectives of this study were to measure spring-seeded cover crop biomass and N yield, and the subsequent effects on sweet corn yield and response to N fertilizer. The study was conducted in 2014 and 2015, and the experimental design was a randomized complete block split-plot design with cover crop as whole-plot treatments [CV, BC, berseem clover and oat (Avena sativa) mixture (BC + O), oats, and no cover crop] and N rate as split-plot treatments. Cover crop growth and effects on sweet corn production varied greatly between years, with both cover crop and sweet corn biomass greater in 2015, although BC produced very little biomass (<0.7 Mg·ha–1) and thus is not recommended for spring seeding. In 2014, CV resulted in the lowest agronomically optimum N rates (AONRs) compared with no cover crop, suggesting a potential N credit when only having an N yield of 11.6 kg·ha–1, but this effect was not seen in 2015. There was also no evidence that oat would supply N to the subsequent crop. Overall, evidence is lacking that any spring-seeded cover crop will provide a consistent N benefit on sandy soil, and limitations to spring growth may preclude widespread adoption.