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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: PRACTICES TO PROTECT WATER QUALITY AND CONSERVE SOIL AND WATER RESOURCES IN AGRONOMIC AND HORTICULTURAL SYSTEMS IN THE NORTH CENTRAL US

Location: Soil and Water Management Research

Title: Cover crop water quality benefits in intensive production

Authors
item Rice, Pamela
item Hapeman, Cathleen
item McConnell, Laura
item Teasdale, John
item Sadeghi, Ali

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: October 1, 2012
Publication Date: October 18, 2012
Citation: Rice, P.J., Hapeman, C.J., Mcconnell, L.L., Teasdale, J.R., Sadeghi, A.M. 2012. Cover crop water quality benefits in intensive production [abstract]. Cover Crop Field Field Day, October 18, 2012, Cape May, New Jersey. Available: http://www.nj.nrcs.usda.gov/documents/PMC/Cover_Crop-Agenda.pdf.

Technical Abstract: Fresh market tomatoes are typically grown in in raised beds covered in polyethylene mulch with bare-soil furrows between the beds. Field experiments were conducted over five years to examine two alternative management strategies. In side-by-side comparison with the traditional management practice, tomatoes were grown in plots completely covered with a vegetative residue mulch from hairy vetch or grown in raised beds covered in polyethylene mulch with cereal rye-planted furrows. Replacing bare-soil furrows with cereal rye residues reduced runoff volumes by more than 40%, soil erosion by more than 80%, and insecticide and fungicide losses by 48-74%. Substitution of hairy vetch mulch in place of the polyethylene mulch reduced runoff volume, soil, and pesticide losses by 61, 88, and 73 to 93%, respectively. The measured reduction of pesticide loads with the modified management practices equate to important reductions of pesticide concentrations in receiving tributaries. Although the environmental benefits gained by the use of vegetative-residue mulch have been demonstrated, one of the most important factors controling adoption of an altrenative management practive is its effect on harvest yield. We did observe differences in yields between years, which were reflective of climate variability, but no significant differences in yield were found between management practices. Results of this research benefit agricultural producers and the environment by identifying practices that enhance the sustainability of vegetable production; reducing soil erosion, increasing pesticide efficacy at their site of application, and reducing exposure of neighboring non-target aquatic organisms to pesticides and increased water turbidity.

Last Modified: 9/20/2014