Start Date: Dec 01, 2010
End Date: Aug 31, 2014
This project is driven by two broad research hypotheses. They will be tested using a comprehensive approach including the collaboration of researchers and growers over two distinct environmental conditions. Hypothesis 1: Organic vegetable systems with integrated management strategies, including composted animal manure, cover crops, and reduced tillage, will lead to increased C sequestration, improved soil quality and crop health, and greater economic viability, by reducing production costs and increasing carbon sequestration rates for potential economic value. Hypothesis 2: Different management practices within organic or conventional systems, fundamentally linked to soil conditions and crop health, will exhibit differential effects on postharvest quality attributes of vegetables. Research will begin in 2011 on University Experiment Station sites in Iowa and Florida, and on grower-cooperator fields in each state. An equivalent experiment will be established in each state to investigate the effect of different vegetable cropping systems on carbon sequestration, soil quality, environmental quality endpoints, crop health, weed, insect pest and nematode populations, yield, food quality attributes of crops, and economic performance. The experiment will evaluate three-year vegetable cropping rotations consisting of tomato(spring)-lettuce(fall)-yellow squash(spring)-broccoli(fall)-onions(spring)-beans(fall). Treatment combinations will evaluate the effect of reduced tillage, black plastic mulch, fall-planted cover crops, and animal manure compost on agroecosystem parameters.