Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Mix-and-match cover cropping can optimize organic production, USDA scientists say

Date:
February 4, 2013
Source:
USDA/Agricultural Research Service
Summary:
Farmers can fine-tune their use of cover crops to help manage costs and maximize benefits in commercial organic production systems, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture scientists.

ARS research is providing organic lettuce and broccoli growers with information about how to use cover crops to fine-tune their crop production. A field test site in Salinas, California, showing a checkerboard of different cover crop treatments being tested, including mustard (yellow flowers), rye, and fallow.
Credit: Photo by Eric Brennan

Farmers can fine-tune their use of cover crops to help manage costs and maximize benefits in commercial organic production systems, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists.

Production expenses for high-value organic crops like lettuce and broccoli can exceed $7,000 per acre, so producers often try to streamline costs with an annual two- to three-crop rotation. Agricultural Research Service (ARS) horticulturalist Eric Brennan designed a long-term investigation that examined several different cover cropping strategies for an annual organic lettuce-broccoli production system. ARS is USDA's chief intramural scientific research agency, and this work supports the USDA priority of promoting international food security.

The researcher selected three winter cover crops often grown in the Salinas, Calif., area -- rye, mustard, and a legume-rye mix -- and planted each cover crop using either a typical seeding rate or a seeding rate that was three times higher. Seeding rates can influence a cover crop's ability to smother weeds.

During lettuce and broccoli production, Brennan ensured all systems received the same fertilizer and irrigation inputs and pest management. The harvest and sale of the crops, which met all USDA organic standards, were conducted by a commercial harvester.

Brennan's results indicated that all three cover crops yielded more dry matter than the two tons of crop residue per acre often recommended for maintaining soil organic matter. The legume-rye and rye cover crops produced approximately 25 percent more dry matter biomass than the mustard crops. But effectively suppressing weeds with the legume-rye crops required seeding at three times the typical rate, while rye and mustard crops appeared to suppress weeds adequately with typical seeding rates.

The long-term study also provided Brennan with more data about year-to-year yield variations in the legume-rye mix, including why legumes, which make up most of the seed costs, are not consistently abundant. Brennan thinks cooler early-season weather helps legumes compete with the rye. So when a hot and dry autumn is expected, producers might want to use a rye cover crop and skip spending the money on a cover crop with legumes.

Brennan, who works at the ARS Crop Improvement and Protection Research Unit in Salinas, has published some his findings in Agronomy Journal and Applied Soil Ecology.

Read more about this research in the February 2013 issue of Agricultural Research magazine: http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/feb13/organic0213.htm


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by USDA/Agricultural Research Service. The original article was written by Ann Perry. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

USDA/Agricultural Research Service. "Mix-and-match cover cropping can optimize organic production, USDA scientists say." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 4 February 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130204114248.htm>.
USDA/Agricultural Research Service. (2013, February 4). Mix-and-match cover cropping can optimize organic production, USDA scientists say. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 1, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130204114248.htm
USDA/Agricultural Research Service. "Mix-and-match cover cropping can optimize organic production, USDA scientists say." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130204114248.htm (accessed October 1, 2014).

Share This



More Plants & Animals News

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time

Cultural Learning In Wild Chimps Observed For The First Time

Newsy (Oct. 1, 2014) — Cultural transmission — the passing of knowledge from one animal to another — has been caught on camera with chimps teaching other chimps. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Earth Has Lost Half Its Vertebrate Wildlife Since 1970: WWF

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — A new study published by the World Wide Fund for Nature found that more than half of the world's wildlife population has declined since 1970. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Dolphins Might Use Earth's Magnetic Field As A GPS

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — A study released Monday suggests dolphins might be able to sense the Earth's magnetic field and possibly use it as a means of navigation. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
How To Battle Stink Bug Season

How To Battle Stink Bug Season

Newsy (Sep. 30, 2014) — Homeowners in 33 states grapple with stink bugs moving indoors at this time of year. Here are a few tips to avoid stink bug infestations. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins