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Rolled-down cover crop mulch for pumpkin and soybean production

Organic producers generally rely heavily on tillage for weed control. In contrast conventional producers can utilize no-tillage techniques but must rely on herbicide burn down before no-till drilling crops. Researchers from the Rodale Institute in Kutztown, PA have developed an organic no-tillage technique that allows organic growers to benefit from the soil building characteristics of no-till without reliance on chemical weed control. Their organic no-till system relies on thickly planted winter covers which when rolled down create a dense mulch of organic material. Field crops are no-till planted into this mulch which suppresses weeds until the crop canopy closes providing additional weed suppression. However, few on farm trials of the roll down technique have been successful due to a variety of weather, pest and farmer oversight related problems. Some trials have been conducted in other regions where differing climatic conditions required use of cover crops not appropriate for this region. Here we propose to test the organic roll down technique in comparison to a control where cover crops are disked into the soil surface. This will allow the collaborating grower to compare yield and weed suppression between the organic no-tillage method and his general best management practices. Funded by NE-SARE. Project participants: T. Dupont, D. Hunter (The Seed Farm, Vera Cruz, PA).

Project contact: Tianna Dupont, std11@psu.edu