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  • Author or Editor: Mohan Selvaraj* x
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The inclusion of cover crops into cropping systems may influence soil microbial activity which is crucial to sustained crop production. A study was conducted to measure short term effects of summer and winter cover crops on soil microbial biomass carbon (MBC) in a cucumber-tomato rotation system. The experiment was established in Summer 2002 as a factorial of summer cover crops (planted either as fallow or after harvest of cucumbers) and winter cover crops (planted in September). The design was a split-block with four replications. The main plot factor was summer cover crop and consisted of five treatments; sorghum sudangrass fallow (SGF), cowpea fallow (CPF), sorghum sudangrass after cucumber (SGC), cowpea after cucumber (CPC) and bareground fallow (BGF). The sub-plot factor was winter cover crop and consisted of three treatments including cereal rye (CR), hairy vetch (HV) and bareground (BG). In spring of 2003, soil samples were collected in each treatment at 30 days before (30 DBI), 2 days after (2 DAI) and 30 days after (30 DAI) cover crop incorporation. MBC was measured using the chloroform fumigation-incubation method. Both summer and winter cover crops affected soil microbial activity. MBC in the summer cover crop treatments at 30 DBI was 47.7, 51.4, 49.2, 43.7 and 42.5 μg·g-1 soil for SGF, CPF, SGC, CPC and BGF, respectively. At 30 DAI, 113.1, 88.9, 138.5, 105.6, and 109.3 μg·g-1 soil was obtained in SGF, CPF, SGC, CPC, and BGF plots, respectively. Soil MBC was similar at 2 DAI in the summer cover crop treatments. Among winter treatments MBC was similar at 30 DBI and 30 DAI, but significant at 2 DAI with values of 62.8, 53.3, 59.3 μg·g-1 soil for CR, BG, and HV, respectively.

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Michigan is the national leader for pickling cucumber production. However, over the last few years growers have witnessed a considerable decline in marketable yield, mainly attributed to fruit rot caused by Phytophthora capsici. Phytophtora develops rapidly under high relative humidity, a situation commonly found with narrow rows. Growers are interested in using wider rows but would like to know if there are any associated yield reductions. This study was conducted in 2003 to measure the effects of cucumber plant populations on canopy dynamics and fruit yield. Cucumbers were grown with between-row spacing of 30.5, 45.7, 61.0, and 76.2 cm, and in-row spacing of 10.2, 12.7, and 15.2 cm. A split-plot design with four replications was used. Row spacing was the main plot factor, and in-row spacing the subplot factor. Soil covered by plant canopy was monitored throughout the growing season using digital image analysis techniques. At harvest, the number of fruits per plant and marketable yield for the different grades were measured. Cucumber canopy remained open during the major part of the growing season when wide rows (61.0 and 76.2 cm) were used. The number of fruits per plant increased from an average of 1.5 fruits at 30.5 cm to 2.0 fruits per plant at 61.0 cm. Further widening of row spacing to 76.2 cm slightly reduced the number of fruits per plant. Therefore, the optimum row spacing would be 61.0 cm if the number of fruits per plant was the only parameter being measured. Cucumber marketable yield was similar with 30.5, 45.7, and 61.0 cm spacing between the rows. With 76.2-cm rows, yield reduced slightly. These results suggest that cucumber plant density can be reduced substantial with limited yield penalty.

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