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Stephen Reiners and Olga Wickerhauser

The possibility of using annual grain rye (Secale cereale L.) as a living mulch between rows of black plastic mulch was investigated. Rye was seeded immediately after plastic was laid and ≈30 days before transplanting bell pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) seedlings. Rye growth was controlled by postemergence herbicides and mowing or was left unmowed. These treatments were compared to a weedy control, cultivation, and standard preemergence herbicides for their effect on weed control and bell pepper yield. Within the rye treatments, the unmowed rye provided the best weed control and significantly decreased the number and size of weeds between crop rows. The rye cover crop also significantly reduced the yield of peppers. In both the mowed and unmowed rye treatments, total marketable yield was reduced 50% compared to clean cultivated and herbicide-treated plots. Further work is needed to minimize the competition between the living mulch and the crop.