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James Leary and Joe DeFrank

An important aspect of organic farming is to minimize the detrimental impact of human intervention to the surrounding environment by adopting a natural protocol in system management. Traditionally, organic farming has focused on the elimination of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides and a reliance on biological cycles that contribute to improving soil health in terms of fertility and pest management. Organic production systems are ecologically and economically sustainable when practices designed to build soil organic matter, fertility, and structure also mitigate soil erosion and nutrient runoff. We found no research conducted under traditional organic farming conditions, comparing bareground monoculture systems to systems incorporating the use of living mulches. We will be focusing on living mulch studies conducted under conventional methodology that can be extrapolated to beneficial uses in an organic system. This article discusses how organic farmers can use living mulches to reduce erosion, runoff, and leaching and also demonstrate the potential of living mulch systems as comprehensive integrated pest management plans that allow for an overall reduction in pesticide applications. The pesticide reducing potential of the living mulch system is examined to gain insight on application within organic agriculture.

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M.D. Richardson and J.W. Boyd

Establishment of zoysiagrass (Zoysia japonica Steud.) from sprigs is often impractical for golf courses and sports fields because of the slow growth rate of the species and subsequent long establishment period. A study was conducted at two different sites in Arkansas to evaluate the effects of soil topdressing and post-plant fertility rates on establishment of zoysiagrass from vegetative sprigs. Each site was planted according to standard methods using freshly-harvested sprigs (18 m3/ha) and either top dressed with 1.0 cm of native soil or maintained without topdressing. Beginning immediately after establishment, N was applied monthly at rates of 0, 1.25, 2.50, 3.75, or 5.0 g·m-2 as urea. Rate of cover was monitored throughout the growing season and elemental analysis of plant tissues was determined 120 days after planting. Topdressing the sprigs with native soil significantly improved establishment compared to traditional sprigging at both sites, presumably because of enhanced sprig survival. Applications of N during the establishment period had little or no overall effect on establishment, although the 0 g·m-2 rate was slightly inferior to all other rates. This study indicates that methods that enhance sprig survival are more important than added fertility for the rapid establishment of zoysiagrass sprigs.

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Chad M. Hutchinson and Milton E. McGiffen

The goals of sustainable agriculture include decreased reliance on synthetic nutrients and pesticides and improved environmental quality for the long-term benefit of the land, livelihood of growers, and their communities. Cropping systems that maximize these goals use alternative fertility and pest control options to produce crops with minimal soil erosion and nutrient leaching. Cropping system elements that can help achieve these goals include: reduced tillage, cover crops, and organic soil amendments. Cover crops are grown before the cash crop and used to replenish the soil with nitrogen and organic matter. Cover crops often also influence pest populations and can be selected based on site-specific growing conditions. Cover crops can be mulched on the soil surface to prevent erosion and weed emergence or can be tilled directly into the soil to incorporate nitrogen and organic matter. Green waste mulch is an increasingly used soil amendment. Many municipalities are encouraging farmers to use green waste mulch in farming systems as an alternative to green waste disposal in landfills. Reduced tillage was once restricted to large-seeded field crops but recent technical advances have made it a feasible option for vegetables and other horticultural crops. Alternative farming practices; however, are still only used by a small minority of growers. Increases in price for organic produce and changes in laws governing farming operations may increase adoption of alternatives to conventional agriculture.

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Ian A. Merwin, Warren C. Stiles and Harold M. van Es

This study was conducted to compare various orchard groundcover management systems (GMSs)—including a crownvetch “living mulch” (CNVCH), close-mowed (MWSOD) and chemically growth-regulated (GRSOD) sodgrasses, pre-emergence (NDPQT) and two widths of post-emergence (GLY1.5 and GLY2.5) herbicides, hay-straw mulch (STMCH), and monthly rototillage (tilled)—during the first 6 years in a newly established apple (Malus domestica Borkh.) planting. Mean soil water potential at 5 to 35 cm deep varied substantially among treatments each summer, and treatment × year interactions were observed. During most growing seasons from 1986 to 1991, soil water availability trends were STMCH > NDPQT > GLY2.5 > GLY1.5 > tilled > GRSOD > MWSOD > CNVCH. Soil organic matter content increased under STMCH, CNVCH, and MWSOD and decreased under NDPQT and tilled treatments. Water infiltration and saturated hydraulic conductivity after 4 years were lower under NDPQT and tilled, and soil under STMCH and GRSOD retained more water per unit volume at applied pressures approximating field water capacity. Mid-summer soil temperatures at 5 cm deep were highest (25 to 28C) in tilled and NDPQT plots, intermediate (22 to 24C) under GRSOD, and lowest (16 to 20C) under CNVCH and STMCH. These observations indicate that long-term soil fertility and orchard productivity may be diminished under pre-emergence herbicides and mechanical cultivation in comparison with certain other GMSs.

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C.A. Sanchez, G.H. Snyder and H.W. Burdine

Diagnosis and Recommendation Integrated System (DRIS) norms were derived for crisphead lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) from field fertility experiments conducted over the past 20 years on mineral and organic soils in Florida. Preliminary testing indicates that DRIS diagnoses generally agree with diagnoses using the sufficiency range approach, with the advantage of predicting the degree of nutrient limitation. DRIS also appeared to correctly predict a response to K where sufficiency ranges currently used did not. Overall, DRIS appears to be a useful adjunct to the sufficiency range approach currently used to diagnose nutritional deficiencies in crisphead lettuce.

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James J. Ferguson, Elizabeth Lamb and Mickie Swisher

With funding to increase support for organic farming research at land grant universities, organic growers have collaborated with faculty and administrators to develop an undergraduate, interdisciplinary minor at the University of Florida. Required introductory courses focus on general concepts of organic and sustainable farming, alternative cropping systems, production programs, handling, and marketing issues. An advanced horticulture course requires intensive examination of certification procedures, farm plans, soil fertility, and crop management, all of which are integrated into a required field project. Extension faculty have also fostered development of this new curriculum by coordinating regional workshops and field days in collaboration with organic growers and by developing educational materials on organic certification and related issues.

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Carl J. Rosen and Cindy B.S. Tongn

1 To whom requests for reprints should be addressed. E-mail address: crosen@soils.umn.edu This research was supported by the Minnesota Agricultural Experiment Station and a grant from the Minnesota Dept. of

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Bielinski M. Santos, Joan A. Dusky, William M. Stall, Donn G. Shilling and Thomas A. Bewick

The effects of different smooth pigweed and common purslane removal times and two phosphorus (P) fertility regimes were studied under field conditions. Head lettuce (cv. South Bay) in organic soils low in P fertility. Smooth pigweed and common purslane were grown at a density of 16 plants per 6 m of row (5.4 m2) and five removal times (0, 2, 4, 6, and 8 weeks) after lettuce emergence. Phosphorus (P) was applied broadcast (1200 kg P/ha) and banded 2 inches below each lettuce row (600 kg P/ha). Lettuce fresh weights were collected 8 weeks after emergence. When smooth pigweed was removed after 4 weeks, significant reductions (–17%) were observed for P banding. However, these reductions occurred after 2 weeks if P was broadcast. No significant differences were observed if removal was imposed later for P broadcast, whereas lettuce yields gradually decreased as removal time was delayed. These findings indicate that P banding can counteract the negative impact of smooth pigweed on lettuce and may allow farmers to delay weed control (if necessary) for another 2 weeks without significant yield reductions. Common purslane interference did not cause significant lettuce yield reductions as compared to the weed-free control for 6 weeks when P was banded, whereas this was true for P broadcast up to 4 weeks. Phosphorus fertility regime significantly influenced the period of weed interference of common purslane with lettuce, reducing its impact when P was banded.

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Massimo Tagliavini and Bruno Marangoni

grateful to W. Drahorad, O. Failla and D. Porro for useful information on soil conditions and specific management techniques in apple orchards in the Adige Valley. We thank D. Scudellari for his continuous ability to bring grower needs to our attention and

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Qingren Wang, Yuncong Li and Waldemar Klassen

A pot experiment with summer cover crops and soil amendments was conducted in two consecutive years to elucidate the effects of these cover crops and soil amendments on `Clemson Spineless 80' okra (Abelmoschus esculentus) yields and biomass production, and the uptake and distribution of soil nutrients and trace elements. The cover crops were sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea), cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), velvetbean (Mucuna deeringiana), and sorghum sudangrass (Sorghum bicolor × S. bicolor var. sudanense) with fallow as the control. The organic soil amendments were biosolids (sediment from wastewater plants), N-Viro Soil (a mixture of biosolids and coal ash, coal ash (a combustion by-product from power plants), co-compost (a mixture of 3 biosolids: 7 yard waste), and yard waste compost (mainly from leaves and branches of trees and shrubs, and grass clippings) with a soil-incorporated cover crop as the control. As a subsequent vegetable crop, okra was grown after the cover crops, alone or together with the organic soil amendments, had been incorporated. All of the cover crops, except sorghum sudangrass in 2002-03, significantly improved okra fruit yields and the total biomass production (i.e., fruit yields were enhanced by 53% to 62% in 2002-03 and by 28% to 70% in 2003-04). Soil amendments enhanced okra fruit yields from 38.3 to 81.0 g/pot vs. 27.4 g/pot in the control in 2002-03, and from 59.9 to 124.3 g/pot vs. 52.3 g/pot in the control in 2003-04. Both cover crops and soil amendments can substantially improve nutrient uptake and distribution. Among cover crop treatments, sunn hemp showed promising improvement in concentrations of calcium (Ca), zinc (Zn), copper (Cu), iron (Fe), boron (B), and molybdenum (Mo) in fruit; magnesium (Mg), Zn, Cu, and Mo in shoots; and Mo in roots of okra. Among soil amendments, biosolids had a significant influence on most nutrients by increasing the concentrations of Zn, Cu, Fe, and Mo in the fruit; Mg, Zn, Cu, and Mo in the shoot; and Mg, Zn, and Mo in the root. Concentrations of the trace metal cadmium (Cd) were not increased significantly in either okra fruit, shoot, or root by application of these cover crops or soil amendments, but the lead (Pb) concentration was increased in the fruit by application of a high rate (205 g/pot) of biosolids. These results suggest that cover crops and appropriate amounts of soil amendments can be used to improve soil fertility and okra yield without adverse environmental effects or risk of contamination of the fruit. Further field studies will be required to confirm these findings.