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Impacts of Plastic and Cover Crop Mulches on Weeds, Soil Quality, Yields and Season Length for Tomatoes
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Impacts of Plastic and Cover Crop Mulches on Weeds, Soil Quality, Yields and Season Length for Tomatoes

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Reviews our research results on controlling weeds with cover crop mulches rather than black plastic and discusses the details of incorporating them on the farm. (Farmers, market gardeners and ag …

Reviews our research results on controlling weeds with cover crop mulches rather than black plastic and discusses the details of incorporating them on the farm. (Farmers, market gardeners and ag professionals)

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  • This is some data from this year. As in years past the Rye has the most biomass, but if you notice the RV combo is less than 2010 2011. We are not sure why that is but it will be interesting to see what that means for this year.
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    • 1. ©2010 Rodale Institute Impacts of Plastic and Cover Crop Mulches on Weeds, Soil Quality, Yields and Season Length for Tomatoes
    • 2. ©2010 Rodale Institute Vegetable Research at Rodale 1980’s – Research on amaranth, wild triga, and many other vegetable trials 1990’s-2000’s – Focus on larger scale grain production 2010’s – Renewed interest in vegetable production in balance with grain crops
    • 3. ©2010 Rodale Institute Research Goals • Maintain and improve yields • Reduce or eliminate external inputs • Manage weeds • Reduce/redirect labor • INCREASE SOIL HEALTH Make farming more sustainable and profitable by developing and improving organic practices that: How? • Cover crops • Compost • Rotation • Reduce tillage
    • 4. ©2010 Rodale Institute What is Organic No-Till? 1.Grow a fall-planted winter annual cover crop, such as rye or hairy vetch 2.Let the cover crop grow in the spring until it reaches at least 50% flowering (mid-late May for rye, late-May or early-June for vetch) 3.Kill the cover crop by rolling it down with a front-mounted roller and planting with a rear-mounted no-till planter in one pass. Three Basic Steps
    • 5. ©2010 Rodale Institute The No-Till Roller in Action Rolling Rye Rolling Hairy Vetch
    • 6. ©2010 Rodale Institute A Brief History of Organic No-Till 1988 -1994 - First tried in the Low-Input Reduced Tillage (LIRT) Trial Late 1990s - Attempts to stalk-chop cover crops not very successful 2002 - Roller designed and built by Jeff Moyer and John Brubaker with NE SARE funding Fall 2004 – Received NRCS Conservation Innovation Grant for no-till received Spring 2006 – Received SARE No-Till Grant Fall 2008 – Received OREI IOP No-Till Grant, led by Iowa State University Spring 2011 – Received SARE No-Till Vegetable Production Grant
    • 7. ©2010 Rodale Institute Benefits and Challenges of Organic No-Till • Reduces number of tractor passes over the field (saves time, fuel, and money) • Keeps the soil covered to reduce erosion and weed growth at vulnerable times • Retains moisture and cools soil in mid-summer • Eliminates herbicide use • Can keep soil too cool in the spring • Can allow weed growth if the cover crop stand is poor • May provide habitat for plant-damaging pests • Requires later planting, and well-timed rolling Benefits Challenges
    • 8. ©2010 Rodale Institute The importance of timing in cover crop termination Rye, rolled at the soft dough stage, lays down well and dies quickly. Vetch, when rolled before it reaches at least 50% flowering, doesn’t die and will continue to grow and compete with the crop plants.
    • 9. ©2010 Rodale Institute Other cover crops that can be used… Or any grain – wheat, barley, triticale, mature oats, etc. Fall-Planted Spring Oats (die and lie down on their own at frost) Austrian Winter Peas (flowers early) Crimson Clover (flowers early)
    • 10. ©2010 Rodale Institute Cast Iron Closing Wheels Additional Weight 130 lb per row Equipment modifications to make it work
    • 11. ©2010 Rodale Institute Ron Morse’s No-Till Vegetable Transplanter
    • 12. ©2010 Rodale Institute No-till pumpkins
    • 13. ©2010 Rodale Institute No-till peanuts
    • 14. ©2010 Rodale Institute No-till eggplant
    • 15. ©2010 Rodale Institute No-till tomatoes
    • 16. ©2010 Rodale Institute Cover Crop Mulches for Small-Scale Production? Yes!!! Cover crops can be crimped by hand, scythed or mowed. Timing is still key. Kill is most successful when the cover crop is at bloom or anthesis, but mowing can provide greater flexibility.
    • 17. ©2010 Rodale Institute Rodale Institute’s Current Vegetable Work • Identify four effective cover crops/combinations for weed suppression and N contribution in vegetable production; • Measure efficiency of cover crop termination techniques, economic returns, and soil health impacts; Project goals: Project title: Reducing Plastic Mulch Use by Expanding Adoption of Cover Crop-Based No-Till Systems for Vegetable Producers
    • 18. ©2010 Rodale Institute Block 1 Block 2 Block 3 Block 4 111 35' Buffer 232 35' Buffer 321 35' Buffer 422 V 112 RV 231 R 322 R 421 113 233 323 423 133 221 313 432 RV 131 R 223 V 311 RV 433 132 222 312 431 121 213 331 412 R 123 V 212 RV 333 V 411 122 211 332 413 First Digit Second Digit Third Digit 1) 1st Replicate 1) Vetch 1) Black plastic 2) 2nd Replicate 2) Rye 2) Roll 3) 3rd Replicate 3) Rye + Vetch 3) Mow 4) 4th Replicate Field 6 - 2012 SARE No Till Veggie Tomatoes 50' 10Cover 10' 30' 90' The Basic Experimental Design… 3 cover crop mixtures X 3 cover crop kill methods 9 treatments X 4 replications 36 plots
    • 19. ©2010 Rodale Institute RI’s 2010 trial 3 cover crop treatments: 1. Vetch 2. Rye 3. Rye-vetch mix 3 termination methods: 1. Black plastic 2. Mowed 3. Rolled 3 tomato varieties: 1. Black Prince 2. Bellstar 3. Glacier 1 pole bean variety (KY Wonder)
    • 20. ©2010 Rodale Institute Changes to the RI Field for 2011 • No beans • Only one variety of tomato (Glacier) • One row per plot for all treatments • Separate weeds only into perennial and annual categories (not by species) SIMPLIFY! 111 112 113 40'buffer 131 133 132 40'buffer 122 121 123 40'buffer 222 223 221 40'buffer 233 232 231 40'buffer 212 213 211 40'buffer 331 333 332 40'buffer 323 322 321 40'buffer 312 311 313 40'buffer 432 433 431 40'buffer 422 421 423 40'buffer 412 413 411 Vetch R + VVetch R + V Rye VetchR + VRye Field 9/10 2011 No Till Veggie SARE Tomatoes Rye Vetch Block 1 Block 2 Block 3 Block 4 R + V Rye 50' covercrop planting width 30' 170' 800'
    • 21. ©2010 Rodale Institute The 2011 Tomato Field Throughout the Year
    • 22. ©2010 Rodale Institute Cover Crop Biomass and N Content 2010 Cover Crop Biomass 0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000 12000 14000 VETCH RYE RYE/VETCH lb/ac plastic rolled/mowed plastic rolled/mowed plastic rolled/mowed 0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000 12000 14000 black plastic roll mow black plastic roll mow black plastic roll mow lb/acredrymatter May 13th May 13th May 13th May 27th June 10th June 10th June 10th June 10th June 10th VETCH ALONE RYE ALONE RYE/VETCH MIX Nitrogen Content of Cover Crops at Termination 0 50 100 150 200 250 Black Plastic Roll Mow Black Plastic Roll Mow Black Plastic Roll Mow CoverCropNitrogen(lb/ac) VETCH ALONE RYE ALONE RYE/VETCH 2010 Cover Crop Nitrogen Content 0 50 100 150 200 250 VETCH RYE RYE/VETCH lb/ac plastic rolled/mowed plastic rolled/mowed plastic rolled/mowed 2010 2011 CovercropbiomassCovercropNcontent 14,00014,000 lb/acDryWeight lb/acDryWeight lb/ac lb/ac 250250
    • 23. ©2010 Rodale Institute Weed Biomass at 4 and 8 Weeks Weed Biomass at 8- 10 weeks 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000 Black Plastic Rolled Mowed Black Plastic Rolled Mowed Black Plastic Rolled Mowed Lbs/acredryweight VETCH RYE RYE/VETCH Weed Biomass at 4- 6 weeks 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000 Black Plastic Rolled Mowed Black Plastic Rolled Mowed Black Plastic Rolled Mowed Lbs/acredryweight VETCH RYE RYE/VETCH 2010 8-Week Weed Biomass 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000 VETCH RYE RYE/VETCH lbs/acredryweight plastic roll mow plastic roll mow plastic roll mow 2010 4-Week Weed Biomass 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 8000 VETCH RYE RYE/VETCH lb/acredryweight plastic roll mow plastic roll mow plastic roll mow 2010 2011 4-6weeksafterplanting8-10weeksafterplanting 80008000 80008000 lb/acDryWeightlb/acDryWeight lb/acDryWeightlb/acDryWeight
    • 24. ©2010 Rodale Institute Soil Moisture and Temperature 2011 Soil Moisture Through The Season 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 June 14th July 18th Aug 17th Sept 14th %moisture black plastic roll mow black plastic roll mow black plastic roll mow 2010 Soil Moisture Through the Season 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 May 7th June 1st June 24th July 20th %moisture vetch plastic vetch rolled vetch mowed rye plastic rye rolled rye mowed rye/vetch plastic rye/vetch rolled rye/vetch mowed 2010 Average and Maximum Soil Temperature by Treatment 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 plastic roll mow plastic roll mow plastic roll mow temperature(C) vetch rye rye/vetch 2011 Average and Maximum Soil Temperature By Treatment 0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 plastic roll mow plastic roll mow plastic roll mow temperature(C) vetch rye rye/vetch 2010 2011 SoilMoisturebyDateAvgandMaxTemperature 35 %moisture%moisture %moisture %moisture 35 3535 May June July August June July August September
    • 25. ©2010 Rodale Institute 2011 Tomato Yields (total and marketable) total yield = darker bar (left) marketable yield = lighter bar (right) 0 20,000 40,000 60,000 80,000 100,000 120,000 Black Plastic Rolled Mowed Black Plastic Rolled Mowed Black Plastic Rolled Mowed lbs/acrefreshweight e E b B b B de DE ab AB a A e E cd CD c C VETCH RYE RYE/VETCH ~ 6500 lbs of tomatoes harvested from late August to mid October 2010 Tomato Yields 0 20,000 40,000 60,000 80,000 100,000 120,000 VETCH RYE RYE/VETCH lb/acre plastic roll mow plastic roll mow plastic roll mow ~ 4000 lbs of tomatoes harvested from late July to early October 2010 2011 120,000120,000 lbs/acfreshweight lbs/acfreshweight
    • 26. ©2010 Rodale Institute Comparison of Outcomes from 2010 to 2011 • Rolled Vetch was weediest (replanted=not enough biomass?). • Mowed Rye/Vetch had the fewest weeds, compared to black plastic. • Rye and Rye/Vetch kept weed biomass under 1500 kg/ha. • Rolled and Mowed Rye and Rye/Vetch were comparable to Black Plastic treatment in yields. • Most rolled and mowed cover crops were equally weedy at 10 weeks • Rolled Rye/Vetch had the fewest weeds, compared to black plastic. • All non-plastic treatments had weed biomass over 3000 lbs/ac (up to 6000 lb/ac). • Black Plastic out-yielded all the other treatments. • Rolled and Mowed Rye/Vetch out-yielded the Vetch and the Rye, and both termination techniques yielded equally. 2010 2011 This is why we do multi-year agricultural research projects!
    • 27. ©2010 Rodale Institute Spring 2012 Cover Crop Biomass 0 2,000 4,000 6,000 8,000 10,000 12,000 14,000 plastic roll mow plastic roll mow plastic roll mow Vetch Vetch Vetch Rye Rye Rye Rye/Vetch Rye/Vetch Rye/Vetch kg/ha 14,000 kg/ha
    • 28. ©2010 Rodale Institute We also performed research at four collaborating farms in 2011 The Farmer Team: Mike Baki – Genesis Farm CSA, Blairstown, NJ James Weaver – Meadow View Farm, Bowers, PA John & Aimee Good – Quiet Creek Farm CSA, Kutztown, PA Elizabeth & Douglas Randolph – Swallow Hill Farm, Cochranville, PA Doug Randolph planting his cover crops
    • 29. ©2010 Rodale Institute Plot Lay-Out at Each Collaborating Farm roll std. roll std roll std * * 11 12 21 22 31 32 * * Row 1 Row 2 Row 3 Row 4 Row 5 Row 6 ^Corner of field 3 ft 5 ft 5 ft 3 ft 5 ft 5 ft 3ft 5 ft 5 ft roll: rolled cover crop, rye 70#/A and vetch 25#/A. std: standard practice - spaded cover crop with BioTelo biodegradable plastic mulch 1st Digit: Block 2nd Digit:Practice (1= roll, 2=std practice) 39 Feet wide GrassBufferRoad Grass Buffer Road 100ftlong Block 3 3 Markers installed here at ~66 ft 3 Markers installed here at ~33 ft Baki 2010 Tomatoes Block 1 Block 2 std. roll roll std std. roll 12 11 21 22 32 31 Row 1 Row 2 Row 3 Row 4 Row 5 Row 6 roll: rolled cover crop, rye 70#/A and vetch 25#/A. std: standard practice 1st Digit: Block 2nd Digit:Practice (1= roll, 2=std practice) Goods 2010 Tomatoes (or squash?) Block 1 Block 2 Block 3 Baki Good Weaver Randolph Tomatoes, Melons, and Summer Squash Tomatoes and Cabbage, using a raised bed roller Acorn Squash Acorn Squash 10 ft. { R 1 roll 11 R 12 R 2 std Clover 12 Rye R 11 R 3 roll 21 R 10 R 4 std Clover 22 Rye R 9 R 5 std Clover 32 Rye R 8 R 6 roll 31 R 7 } 10 ft. roll: rolled cover crop, rye 100#/A and clover 25#/A. std: standard practice - pre-emergence burn down Orange flag Yellow flag Yellow flag 350 feet 55 feet Orange flag Orange flag Road 32 feet Yellow flag std. roll std. roll 9' std. roll std. roll 63' G # G # G # G # G # G # G # G # South 100' North 12 11 22 21 32 31 42 41 G # G # G # G # G # G # G # G # Row 1 Row 2 Row 3 Row 4 Row 5 Row 6 Row 7 Row 8 10' 10' 10' 10' 7' 10' 10' 10' 10' 33' Yellowflag Yellowflag Weaver 2012 Cabbage Weaver 2012 Tomatoes Yellowflag Yellowflag Block 1 Block 2 Block 4 powerlinerow Blueflag Blueflag Blueflag Drivelane Blueflag Block 3
    • 30. ©2010 Rodale Institute The Raised Bed Roller
    • 31. ©2010 Rodale Institute What we’ve learned from the farmers’ fields….
    • 32. ©2010 Rodale Institute Spring Cover Crop Biomass Spring Cover Crop Biomass 0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000 12000 14000 Plastic Rolled Plowed Rolled Rolled and Herbicide Rolled Black Plastic Rolled biomass(lb/ac) May 6 tb June 2 nd May 10 tb May 26 tb May 23 tb May 23 tb May 25 tb June 1 tb Baki WeaverRandolphGood rye/clover Nothing here
    • 33. ©2010 Rodale Institute Nitrogen Inputs from the Cover Crops Nitrogen Inputs from Cover Crops 0 50 100 150 200 250 Black plastic Rolled Plowed Rolled Rolled and herbicided Rolled Black plastic Rolled lbs/ac May 6th June 2nd May 10th May 26th May 23rd May 23rd May 25th June 1st Baki Good Randolph Weaver nothing Spring Cover Crop Biomass 0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000 12000 14000 Plastic Rolled Plowed Rolled Rolled and Herbicide Rolled Black Plastic Rolled biomass(lb/ac) May 6 tb June 2 nd May 10 tb May 26 tb May 23 tb May 23 tb May 25 tb June 1 tb Baki WeaverRandolphGood rye/clover
    • 34. ©2010 Rodale Institute Carbon Inputs from the Cover Crops Cover Crop Carbon Inputs 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 Black plastic Rolled Plowed Rolled Rolled and herbicided Rolled Black plastic Rolled lbs/ac Baki Good Randolph Weaver May 6th June 2nd May 10th May 26th May 23rd May 23rd May 25th June 1st nothing Spring Cover Crop Biomass 0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000 12000 14000 Plastic Rolled Plowed Rolled Rolled and Herbicide Rolled Black Plastic Rolled biomass(lb/ac) May 6 tb June 2 nd May 10 tb May 26tb May 23 tb May 23 tb May 25 tb June 1 tb Baki WeaverRandolphGood rye/clover
    • 35. ©2010 Rodale Institute Weed Biomass at 4 and 8 Weeks SARE Veggie collaborating farmers 4- 6 week weed biomass 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 Plastic Rolled Plowed Rolled Rolled and Herbicide Rolled Black Plastic Rolled biomass(kg/ha) Baki July 20 th July 19 th July 28 th July 28 th WeaverRandolphGood On-Farm 8- 10 Week Weed Biomass 0 1000 2000 3000 4000 5000 6000 7000 Plastic Rolled Plowed Rolled Rolled and Herbicide Rolled Black Plastic Rolled biomass(kg/ha) Baki Aug 17 th Aug 16 th Aug 29 th Aug 29 th (tom) Sept 14 th (cab) WeaverRandolphGood Weeds at 4-6 Weeks Weeds at 8-10 Weeks Spring Cover Crop Biomass 0 2000 4000 6000 8000 10000 12000 14000 Plastic Rolled Plowed Rolled Rolled and Herbicide Rolled Black Plastic Rolled biomass(lb/ac) May 6 tb June 2 nd May 10 tb May 26 tb May 23 tb May 23 tb May 25 tb June 1 tb Baki WeaverRandolphGood rye/clover
    • 36. ©2010 Rodale Institute Yields 0 5,000 10,000 15,000 20,000 25,000 30,000 35,000 40,000 45,000 Plastic Rolled Plowed Rolled Rolled and Herbicide Rolled Black Plastic Rolled yieldlb/ac RandolphGoodBaki Weaver tomatoes squash squash tomatoes
    • 37. ©2010 Rodale Institute How do we explain these results? • Wet spring led to low vetch biomass and N input? • Gaps in cover rolled with the raised bed roller? • Thistle in one rolled plot at the Randolph’s? • NO WEEDING? Stay tuned for answers in the 2012 growing season!
    • 38. ©2010 Rodale Institute Changes for 2012 LET THEM WEED!!! • Collaborating farmers will be allowed to weed after the 4- 6 week weed biomass cut • The farmers will track the equipment and amount of time spent weeding, to include in the economic analysis • RI-site plots will also be weeded after the 4-week biomass cut, tracking labor
    • 39. ©2010 Rodale Institute Stay tuned for project updates… Christine Ziegler christine.ziegler@rodaleinstitute.org (610) 683-1415 www.rodaleinstitute.org Thank you!