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Vasey N. Mwaja, John B. Masiunas, and Catherine E. Eastman

The effect of cover-crop management on growth and yield of `Bravo' cabbage (Brassica oleracea var. Capitata L.), `Market Pride' tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.), and `Mustang' snap bean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) was determined. Each fall, `Wheeler' winter rye (Secale cereale L.) and `Oregon Crown' hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth) were interseeded. The following spring, the cover crops were killed by either applying glyphosate and mowing (CC-G) or mowing and disking (CC-D). Trifluralin was preplant incorporated into bare ground as a conventional tillage (CT) treatment. In 1992 and 1993, a chicken (Gallus gallus L.) based fertilizer was applied to half the subplots. The greatest snap bean and cabbage yields were in CT. The system with the greatest tomato yields varied. In 1991, the greatest tomato yields were in the CT treatment, while in 1992 yields were greatest in the CT and CC-D treatments, and in 1993 the greatest yields were in CT and CC-G. Cabbage yields were greater in the fertilized than the unfertilized treatments. In 1992, infestations of diamondback moth, imported cabbageworm, and cabbage looper were greater in CT than in the CC-G treatment. Three years of the CC-G treatment increased soil organic matter from 3.07% to 3.48% and increased soil pH from 6.30 to 6.51, while neither changed in the CT. Chemical names used: N-(phosphonomethyl) glycine (glyphosate); 2,6-dinitro-N,N-dipro`pyl-4-(trifluoromethyl) benzenamine (trifluralin).

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Nancy G. Creamer, Mark A. Bennett, Benjamin R. Stinner, John Cardina, and Emilie E. Regnier

Field and laboratory studies were conducted to investigate the mechanisms of weed suppression by cover crops. High-performance liquid chromatograph analysis and a seed germination bioassay demonstrated that rye (Secale cereale L.) can be leached of its allelochemicals, redried, and used as an inert control for separating physical suppression from other types of interference. In a field study, rye, crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum L.), hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth.), barley (Hordeum vulgare L.), and a mixture of the four species suppressed the emergence of eastern black nightshade (Solanum ptycanthum Dun.). Crimson clover inhibited the emergence of eastern black nightshade beyond what could be attributed to physical suppression alone. The emergence of yellow foxtail [Setaria glauca (L.) Beauv.] was inhibited by rye and barley but not by the other cover crops or the cover crop mixture.

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Gary R. Cline and Anthony F. Silvernail

Effects of tillage, inorganic N, and winter cover crops on sweet corn (Zea mays) were examined in 1994, 1995, and 1996. Tillage treatments were tillage or no tillage, and N treatments were the addition of inorganic N at 0 (N0) or 200 (N+) kg·ha-1 (0 or 179 lb/acre). Winter cover crops included hairy vetch (Vicia villosa), winter rye (Secale cereale), and a vetch/rye biculture. In the N0, rye treatment, the soil was N deficient in 1994 and highly N deficient in 1995 and 1996. When vetch shoot N content was ≥150 kg·ha-1 (134 lb/acre) (1994 and 1995), addition of inorganic N did not increase corn yields, and it only increased corn foliar N concentrations by 8%. Reductions in corn yields (29%) and foliar N concentrations (24%) occurred when vetch shoot N content was only 120 kg·ha-1 (107 lb/acre) (1996) and inorganic N was not supplied. In 1994, the vetch/rye biculture supplied sufficient N for maximum corn yields, but addition of inorganic N increased yields by more than 50% in 1995 and 1996. Under tilled conditions, the vetch N contribution to corn appeared to equal (1996) or exceed (1994 and 1995) 82 kg·ha-1 (73 lb/acre) of N supplied as ammonium nitrate, whereas a mean value of 30 kg·ha-1 (27 lb/acre) was obtained for the biculture cover crop (1995 and 1996). No significant effects of tillage on sweet corn population densities were detected following vetch, but no-tillage significantly reduced corn population densities following rye (17%) or biculture (35%) cover crops compared to tillage. No-tillage did not reduce yields from emerged seedlings (per plant basis) for any cover crops. Vetch appeared to be a satisfactory N source for sweet corn when vetch N content was ≥150 kg·ha-1, and it could be used with no-tillage without yield reductions.

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R. Thomas, J. O'Sullivan, A. Hamill, and C.J. Swanton

Processing tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) are grown on ≈6000 ha in southwestern Ontario. Field experiments were conducted in 1998 and 1999 at two locations to explore the potential of alternative tillage practices (conventional, disked, zone-till, and no-till) on growth, development, yield and quality of tomatoes. Growth measurements of leaf number, plant height, stem diameter, total aboveground dry weight, and LAI did not differ with tillage system. Rye (Secale cereale L.) used as a cover crop did not influence tomato growth or development. Yield differences (P < 0.05) were not observed for red and green tomato fruit harvested in the conventional, disked or zone-tillage treatments. Yield reductions (P < 0.05) were observed however, for both red and green fruit with no-tillage. The delay in crop maturity associated with no-till reduced the potential for the application of this tillage practice for tomato production. Tomato postharvest quality did not differ among tillage systems. Zone-tillage was found to be a viable alternative to the moldboard plow as a primary tillage practice for the production of processing tomatoes.

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Harry Bottenberg, John Masiunas, and Catherine Eastman

We compared soil quality, crop growth, and the incidence of pests in snapbean (Phaseolus vulgaris L.) planted in conventional tillage, in rye (Secale cereale L.) mulch without strips and in strip-tilled rye mulch. On average, yield loss was 63% in rye mulch without strips and 20% in rye mulch with strips compared to yields in conventional tillage. Soil bulk density was higher in the rye mulch treatments than in the conventionally tilled plots and may have reduced plant growth. Leaf nitrogen content was lower in the rye mulch treatments 3 weeks after planting; this may be related to nitrogen tie-up during rye decomposition or to the negative impact of soil compaction on the soil nitrogen cycle. Insect damage to snapbean pods and leaves was not affected by rye mulching. Potato leafhopper [Empoasca fabae (Harris)] populations were significantly higher for conventional tillage than for rye treatments. The incidence of white mold [Sclerotina sclerotiorum (Lib.) deBary] was reduced by the rye treatments in 1997. Further studies are needed to determine optimal strip width and develop better techniques for creating strips.

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Steven Vanek, H.C. Wien, and Anu Rangarajan

Growing a main vegetable crop for harvest and a cover crop for residue return to soil in the same growing season is a promising strategy to sustain soil quality in vegetable rotations. Our research evaluated cover crop strips interseeded between pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo L.) as a way to implement such a strategy. Cover crop types were lana vetch (Vicia villosa ssp. dasycarpa Ten.) and a lana vetch–winter rye (Secale cereale L.) mix, interseeded before, at the same time, or after pumpkins. The competitive impact of different cover crop strips was assessed using pumpkin yield, cover strip biomass, crop nitrogen status, soil nitrate status, and soil water potential. Cover strips were also assessed for competitiveness with native weeds. Seeding date affected the competitiveness of cover strips with pumpkins, while cover type did not. Cover crops seeded before pumpkins or at the same time reduced pumpkin yield in proportion to biomass produced by the cover strips early in pumpkin growth. Cover strips seeded after pumpkins did not reduce yield. Tilling in a before-seeded cover strip at 30 days after pumpkin seeding gave higher pumpkin yield than before-seeded cover strips that were not tilled. At three of four sites, after-seeded cover strips had the lowest percent weed biomass in strips, and at two sites with moderate weed pressure vetch–rye strips were more effective than vetch alone in suppressing weeds. Cover strips seeded before or at the same time as pumpkins reduced pumpkin yield by taking up resources that were otherwise available to pumpkins. At a high-rainfall site, competition for soil nitrate by cover crop strips was the dominant factor in reducing pumpkin yield. At a low-rainfall site, the dominant factor was competition for water. Because of effective weed suppression and lack of pumpkin yield reduction, interseeding vetch–rye strips after pumpkins was a promising practice, as was tilling in preexistent cover strips at an interval <30 days after pumpkin seeding. Good previous weed management and rye–vetch mixes at high seeding rates are necessary to allow interseeded cover strips to outcompete weeds.

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M. Rangappa, A.A. Hamama, and H.L. Bhardwaj

Although there is increasing interest in reducing the use of nitrogen (N) fertilizers due to the potential of unused N causing pollution of surface and groundwater, N is a major nutrient for plant growth. Our objective was to determine the potential of using winter legume cover crops to meet the N needs of seedless watermelon (Citrullus lanatus), a potential cash crop for farmers in Virginia. Fruit number, fruit weight, fruit yield, and fruit quality traits (flesh to rind ratio, water content, total soluble solids, sugar content, and pH) of seedless watermelons were evaluated in replicated experiments in Virginia at three locations during 1997-98 and two locations during 1998-99 following cover crop treatments consisting of crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum), hairy vetch (Vicia villosa), crimson clover + rye (Secale cereale), hairy vetch + rye, and a bareground control treatment that received 100 lb/acre (112 kg·ha-1) of N. At all five locations, the bareground control treatment resulted in fewer fruit [1803 fruit/acre (4454 fruit/ha)], lower fruit weight [9.8 lb (4.5 kg)], and lower fruit yield [8.9 tons/acre (20.0 t·ha-1)] compared to the four cover crop treatments. The crimson clover + rye and hairy vetch treatments resulted in highest numberof fruit [2866 and 2657 fruit/acre (7079 and 6563 fruit/ha), respectively], whereas the highest fruit yield was obtained following hairy vetch [21.2 tons/acre (49.8 t·ha-1)], hairy vetch + rye [20.3 tons/acre (45.5 t·ha-1)], and crimson clover + rye [19.6 tons/acre (43.9 t·ha-1)]. Cover crop treatments did not affect the quality of watermelon flesh. The seedless watermelon fruit averaged 1.4 flesh: 1 rind ratio, 90% water content, 9.5% total soluble solids, 8.0% sugar, and a pH value of 5.9. These results indicated that legume cover crops, such as crimson clover and hairy vetch, can be successfully used to produce seedless watermelons, in a no-till system, without any use of N fertilizers with dryland conditions.

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John R. Teasdale and Aref A. Abdul-Baki

Hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth), crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum L.), and rye (Secale cereale L.) and mixtures of rye with hairy vetch and/or crimson clover were compared for no-tillage production of staked, fresh-market tomatoes (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) on raised beds. All cover crops were evaluated both with or without a postemergence application of metribuzin for weed control. Biomass of cover crop mixtures were higher than that of the hairy vetch monocrop. Cover crop nitrogen content varied little among legume monocrops and all mixtures but was lower in the rye monocrop. The C:N ratio of legume monocrops and all mixtures was <30 but that of the rye monocrop was >50, suggesting that nitrogen immobilization probably occurred only in the rye monocrop. Marketable fruit yield was similar in the legume monocrops and all mixtures but was lower in the rye monocrop when weeds were controlled by metribuzin. When no herbicide was applied, cover crop mixtures reduced weed emergence and biomass compared to the legume monocrops. Despite weed suppression by cover crop mixtures, tomatoes grown in the mixtures without herbicide yielded lower than the corresponding treatments with herbicide in 2 of 3 years. Chemical name used: [4-amino-6-(1,1-dimethylethyl)-3-(methylthio)-1,2,4-triazin-5(4H)-one](metribuzin).

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Warren Roberts, James Shrefler, James Duthie, Jonathan Edelson, Bob Cartwright, and Nancy Roe

We conducted several experiments to determine the best system for production of spring cabbage (Brassica oleracea L. Capitata group) with conservation tillage (CT) in the southern plains of the United States. Rye (Secale cereale L.) was selected as the best cover crop to cover the soil in a short time. Raised beds were formed in the fall and planted with rye. With most studies, the rye was allowed to remain on the soil surface rather than being tilled into the soil. Planting densities, rates of nitrogen fertilizer, and herbicide materials were evaluated to determine the best system for cabbage production. In each study, various cover crop practices were compared with bare soil production systems. Soil erosion was reduced by the use of rye cover crops. Cabbage was produced in the CT system, but cabbage yields were higher in bare soil plots than in the rye-covered plots. We are also in the process of developing a system of CT that involves permanent bermudagrass [Cynodon dactylon (L.) Pers.] pastures and watermelon [Citrullus lanatus (Thunb.) Matsum. & Nakai]. This system allows both crops to be grown simultaneously on the same land.

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N.M. Madden, J.P. Mitchell, W.T. Lanini, M.D. Cahn, E.V. Herrero, S. Park, S.R. Temple, and M. Van Horn

Field experiments were conducted in 2000 and 2001 in Meridian, Calif. to evaluate the effects of cover crop mixtures and reduced tillage on yield, soil nitrogen (N), weed growth, and soil moisture content in organic processing tomato (Lycopersicum esculentum) production. The trial was set up as a randomized complete-block design with eight treatments consisting of a 2 × 3 (cover crop × tillage) factorial design, a fallow control (F) and a single strip-till (ST) treatment. Cover crop mixtures were either legumes (L), common vetch (Vicia sativa), field pea (Pisum sativum) and bell bean (Vicia faba), or those legumes with grasses (GL), annual ryegrass/triticale (Lolium multiflorum/xTriticosecale) in 2000; cereal rye (Secale cereale)/triticale in 2001. Tillage treatments included an incorporation of the cover crop at planting (IP), a delayed incorporation (DI) (17 to 19 days after planting), and no-till (NT). Due to regrowth of the annual ryegrass in 2000, tomato fruit yields in 2000 were reduced by 50% to 97% within all GL treatments. However, regrowth of the cover crop was not a problem in 2001 and yields were not different among treatments. Total percent weed cover was 1.6 to 12.5 times higher in NT than IP treatments in 2000 and 2.4 to 7.4 times higher in 2001 as weed pressure was mainly affected by tillage practices and less by cover crop type. In 2000, available soil N was 1.7 to 9.4 times higher in L than GL treatments and was significantly influenced by tillage, but there were no treatment effects in 2001 due to a 60% reduction in weed pressure and minimal or no cover crop regrowth. Soil moisture content did not differ between treatments in either year. These results demonstrate the importance of appropriate selection and termination of cover crops for their successful adoption in organic conservation tillage systems.