Soil health and nutrient cycling, crop yield, and weed competition was evaluated in a perennial living mulch row middle system with different in-crop-row soil/weed management treatments: no-tillage, minimum-tillage, conventional tillage, tillage/sprayed with vinegar, and tillage/mulched with paper (Ecocover). None of the treatments received any fertilizer other than incorporated one-year-old red clover cover crop which was strip-tilled into crop rows in April. No-till red clover was maintained in row middles between strip-till experiment crop rows.
Lentils are important for diversifying wheat-based cropping systems and are also beneficial in enhancing soil health. These benefits have contributed to the exponential growth in pulse crop acreage in The Northern Great Plains (NGP). There are several challenges facing organic lentil production. Lack of approved herbicide for use in organic pulse crop production provides a challenge to weed management.
North Carolina is the second largest producer of organic sweet potatoes in the U.S., with a rapid 42% increase in acreage transitioning to organic from 2014 to 2016. Despite a steady demand for organic sweet potatoes, marketable yield often does not reach the yield potential for this region due to challenges in weed, insect and soil fertility management. Through farmer consultation soil borne pests such a wireworm and weed proliferation were identified as two areas of concern for organic farmers in North Carolina.
As the negative health and environmental effects of chemical soil fumigation become more apparent, it is critical to devise safe, alternative methods of soil fumigation. Organic growers constantly struggle with weed control and need innovative, chemical‐free weed management techniques.
In the Midwest, one limitation faced by small- and mid-scale organic producers involving cover crop-based, no-till systems is the expense associated with equipment such as a roller crimper needed to terminate the cover crop for spring planting. Thus, the development of an effective no-till system that does not require the use of expensive equipment would be beneficial to producers.
While the majority of carrots are cultivated in California, recent droughts and water use restrictions may impact the success of future crops. Even in states such as Wisconsin, where water is more abundant, crops still must overcome oscillating soil moisture regimes due to differences in soil drainage, water-holding capacity, and microclimate conditions, as well as the anticipated drier summers which are predicted to increase with climate change.
Organic vegetable growers need practical and cost-effective technology to reduce weed pressure and yield losses. In 2013-2014, OFRF funded Dr. Gladis Zinati at the Rodale Institute to perform laboratory and greenhouse trials on the weed suppressing ability of chemically- and biologically-designed compost extracts (DCE). Dr. Zinati found that DCEs with lower nitrate levels and greater nematode-to-protozoa ratios significantly reduced lambsquarter weed seed germination by 32% without affecting crop seed percent germination.
Small-scale and family-oriented organic growers must be continually innovative and efficient in their operations in order to remain in business. One strategy for small and organic farmers is development of niche markets and specialty or high-value alternative crops, such as medicinal herbs. The American Southwest has a large number of native medicinal herb species that have been used traditionally by indigenous and Hispanic cultures. By and large, these species have been wild-harvested from native stands, mostly for personal, family, or local use.
Organic fruit production in the US, especially the western regions, is expanding. The increase is occurring for both economic and ecological reasons. Current market conditions dictate that organic apple growers produce large, flavorful, high quality fruit. Large, high quality fruit receive price premiums and market acceptance whereas small fruit can be difficult to sell, even at lower prices. To grow large fruit, trees must be unstressed and provided with adequate water and nutrition. Weeds can compete with fruit trees for both water and nutrients.
This project examined whether targeted mowing of winter rye cover crop (Secale cereale L.) would increase its weed suppression ability by increasing levels of rye’s major allelochemicals, Hydroaxamic acids (Hx), and subsequently increase crop yield in an organic tomato production system. The project was conducted on organic farms in Upper Marlboro (2003), and Beltsville (2004), Maryland, using a rye cover crop that was grown as a monoculture and as a mixture with crimson clover, and black mulch.