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ARS Home » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #192988

Title: Vegetables and grass winter covers in rotation

item Russo, Vincent
item Kindiger, Bryan

Submitted to: Journal of Sustainable Agriculture
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/2/2006
Publication Date: 11/15/2007
Citation: Russo, V.M., Kindiger, B.K. 2007. Vegetables and grass winter covers in rotation. Journal of Sustainable Agriculture. 31:33-43.

Interpretive Summary: Multiple use of agricultural land encourages cropping diversity and has the potential to improve income for the producer. Ryegrasses, cvs. Shiwasuaoba (early maturing), and Gulf (later maturing), as well a wheat were planted as over-wintering covers. Bare ground was the control. Following removal of covers sweet corn was planted, and followed after harvest by either bell pepper or cucumber. After the last harvest of these crops the soil was prepared and replanted to the ryegrasses, wheat or left bare, and the cycle repeated for a second year. Yields of covers and all vegetables, but sweet corn, were affected by year: yields for covers and bell pepper were higher in the first year, and cucumber yields were higher in 2005. The combined yields of covers and vegetables were higher than for vegetable yields from the bare soil. Planting of multiple crops on the same land can provide a continuous yearly income for producers, a supply of organic material to the soil from the recycled biomass, and a diversity of cropping that can contribute to sustainable production.

Technical Abstract: Rotation of different crops may allow for extended usage of crop land. The early maturing ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum Lam.), cv. Shiwasuaoba, and the later maturing cv. Gulf, were planted as over-wintering covers. Controls consisted of a fall planted winter wheat cultivar and bare soil. The following March, the ryegrass cultivars were clipped and the stubble left in place. The wheat was turned under. Biomass production estimates of the wheat and ryegrass covers were determined, then sweet corn was planted using no-till techniques. Following the harvest of sweet corn, the stalks were tilled under and raised beds prepared. Bell pepper from transplants or cucumber from seed were then established. Harvests of the second vegetable crops occurred well before frost and the land was replanted to the ryegrasses or wheat or left bare in the fall. Yields from all crops were determined. Year affected results. Yields of covers were higher in 2004 than 2005 with wheat producing the most biomass. Sweet corn yield was not affected by treatment, bell pepper had higher yields in 2004, and cucumber had higher yields in 2005. Total combined yields of all components (covers, sweet corn and bell pepper or cucumber) were generally better on land with covers than with land without a cover. Three crops were able to be produced on the same land in a single year. The ryegrass 'Shiwasuaoba' matures earlier than 'Gulf' and can be used for forage, a hay crop or for seed production. This system allows for diversity of production and for maximization of land usage.