Submitted to: HortScience
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: November 29, 1996
Publication Date: N/A
Interpretive Summary: In the mid-Atlantic states, broccoli is grown as a fall crop from transplants and under clean cultivation. This conventional production system depends heavily on commercial fertilizers as sources of nutrients, herbicides for weed control, and extensive cultivation that causes soil erosion and compaction. We describe a no-tillage system that utilizes legume and grass cover crops and converts them into mulches. These mulches provide nutrients, enrich the soil with organic matter, reduce weed pressure, and eliminate soil compaction. Yields and head quality in this no-tillage system are comparable to those in the conventional system. Users of this research are large- and small-scale growers, extension specialists, scientists, faculty of agricultural colleges, soil conservationists, and environmentalists.
Experiments were conducted with 'Emperor' broccoli (Brassica oleraceae L. var. italica) in the fall of 1995 at the Beltsville Agricultural Research Center (BARC), MD and at the Kentland Agricultural Research Farm (KART), Virginia Polytechnical Institute and State University, Blacksburg, VA. The objectives were to determine the effects of no-tillage production systems on marketable yield and weed suppression. One system utilized conventional clean cultivation, the others utilized no-till mulches derived from cover crops of forage soybean (Glycine max L.), foxtail millet (Setaria italica (L.) P. Beauv), or a combination of both. At both sites, broccoli marketable yields of all three alternative cover crop mulch treatments were equal to the conventional clean cultivation system except for the millet treatment at BARC which yielded less than the rest. All treatments maintained weeds below levels that reduced yield. The alternative no-till system offers the advantages of adding organic matter to the soil, fixing N, and reducing soil erosion.