Source: CORNELL UNIVERSITY submitted to
EXPANDING ADOPTION OF REDUCED TILLAGE SYSTEMS ON NY VEGETABLE FARMS
Sponsoring Institution
National Institute of Food and Agriculture
Project Status
NEW
Funding Source
Reporting Frequency
Annual
Accession No.
0227061
Grant No.
(N/A)
Project No.
NYC-145486
Proposal No.
(N/A)
Multistate No.
(N/A)
Program Code
(N/A)
Project Start Date
Oct 1, 2011
Project End Date
Sep 30, 2014
Grant Year
(N/A)
Project Director
Rangarajan, AN.
Recipient Organization
CORNELL UNIVERSITY
(N/A)
ITHACA,NY 14853
Performing Department
Horticulture
Non Technical Summary
Tillage practices common in most vegetable production systems in the Northeast are degrading soil quality, consuming excess fuel and labor, and indirectly affecting surface water quality. Growers in New York associate decreasing crop yields in previously productive fields with reductions in soil quality. Reduced tillage systems (e.g. no, zone, strip, or ridge till) represent strategies to reduce soil degradation and erosion, protect water quality and improve farm fuel efficiency and profitability. In addition, we believe that this tillage strategy will increase the resilience of our vegetable systems to erratic rainfall patters expected as a result of climate change. The benefits of adopting these practices will accrue to the growers as well as society at large, by protecting the productivity of soils and water quality.
Animal Health Component
(N/A)
Research Effort Categories
Basic
(N/A)
Applied
(N/A)
Developmental
(N/A)
Classification

Knowledge Area (KA)Subject of Investigation (SOI)Field of Science (FOS)Percent
1020199106040%
1110199106020%
2051499106040%
Goals / Objectives
Our goal is to increase use of RT systems in the cooler climates of New York and the upper Northeast, by demonstrating that these systems can improve soil and environmental quality, maintain yields, and reduce costs on vegetable farms. Since the start of our RT efforts, our team has documented adoption of RT on about 8,000 vegetable acres in NY. Most have been large farms, yet the majority of vegetable farms in NY are small to midsized. In this proposal, we will target smaller scale and organic farmers, with limited machinery and labor. We will also investigate alternative planting and management strategies for cover crops, to integrate these more effectively into RT systems. Management of cover crop residue is important for both crop establishment and subsequent weed control in RT systems. Better integration of cover crops into RT systems will provide further soil health benefits to these farms. Our direct beneficiaries are small to midsized conventional and organic vegetable growers in NY and the Northeast. While this is our target, all scales of production (5 to 5,000 acres) will benefit, since all have soil compaction problems and are concerned with soil quality. Most growers have not tried RT systems due to their current equipment and weed management options. Our outreach efforts and sharing of RT equipment will facilitate more on farm testing. A secondary audience will be vegetable extension educators and consultants, who will learn when and where these systems may be most effectively applied. Other beneficiaries will include colleagues at other research institutions or extension systems, who will learn of project results via research and extension publications and presentations. The project website will share outcomes with a worldwide audience. The benefits of adopting these practices will accrue to the growers as well as society at large, by protecting the productivity of soils and water quality, and ensuring that NY vegetable systems are well equipped and adapting to potential weather fluctuations associated with climate change. These outcomes fit the Cornell FFF priorities for Global Food Security, by promoting sustainable practices that protect soil and water quality, and Climate Change, but examining practices that have the potential to create more resilient systems. Project Objectives: 1. Evaluate innovative reduced or modified tillage systems and equipment for small scaled vegetable farms. 2. Identify strategies to successfully integrate and manage cover crops or crop residue with RT. 3. Quantify changes in water movement in deep zone versus conventionally tilled fields. 4. Support growers transitioning to these systems by publishing case studies and via consulting and discussion groups.
Project Methods
Four research experiments will be conducted at the Freeville Organic Research Farm or the Homer C. Thompson Vegetable Research Farm in Freeville, New York. One experiment will compare the effectiveness of a newly designed deep zone tillage unit, using the Yeoman's plow with wings set at the soil surface plus finishing baskets. After flail mowing a rye vetch cover crop, deep zone tillage will be established using either the Yeoman's unit, an Unverferth zone builder (industry standard), or the Yeoman's unit without finishing units, after the cover crop residue is first incorporated shallowly using a Perfecta cultivator. The growth of peppers will be compared in these deep zoned areas with a conventionally plowed control. For Objective 2, two experiments (one conventional and one organic) will evaluate use of strip-planting of winter killed and over wintering cover crops prior to zone building. Treatments combinations will be: 1) no cover crop (control); 2) cereal rye/hairy vetch between rows with no cover crop in row; 3) rye/vetch between and in rows; 4) oats/peas between and in rows; 5) rye/vetch between and oat/peas in row; or 6) winter peas/oats between and rye/vetch in row. The cover crops will be planted in strips in the fall of 2011. In the conventional trila, the rye/hairy vetch cover crop will be killed using an herbicide one week prior to zone building then be flailed prior to deep zone tilling. For the organic experiment, the bare ground and dead strips will be rototilled or cultivated in early May to manage emerging weeds. The rye/hairy vetch will be flail mowed after vetch is blooming and rye shedding pollen. Broccoli will be planted into the zones in both experiments. Measurements to be taken in both experiments include soil temperatures, crop and soil nitrogen every three weeks through harvest, potentially mineralizable N in late June, plant biomass and yield, and weed biomass at harvest. All data is analyzed using the SAS software package. For Objective 3, soil moisture will be monitored continuously in an on station trial comparing deep zone tillage and conventional tillage for cabbage production. Soil moisture probes will placed at two soil depths (6 and 9 inches) within the two tillage treatments, to determine if DZT changes water movement and retention after rainfall events and if this soil water profile improves after multiple years in DZT. For Objective 4, we will foster discussion groups, conference workshops, video conferences and on farm trials testing RT systems. We will develop case studies highlighting successes and failures of growers transition to these systems.

Progress 10/01/12 to 09/30/13

Outputs
Target Audience: Our direct beneficiaries are small to midsized conventional and organic vegetable growers in NY and the Northeast. While this is our target, all scales of production (5 to 5,000 acres) will benefit, since all have soil compaction problems and are concerned with soil quality. A secondary audience will be vegetable extension educators and consultants, who will learn when and where these systems may be most effectively applied. Other beneficiaries will include colleagues at other research institutions or extension systems, who will learn of project results via research and extension publications and presentations. Changes/Problems: Nothing Reported What opportunities for training and professional development has the project provided? Partner Organizations include: Cornell Cooperative Extension, New York Farm Viability Institute, NE SARE, NY Vegetable Producers Association, Northeast Organic Farming Association of NY, and commercial vegetable producers in New York. Training opportunities were provided through field days and winter farmer meetings. Several extension agents facilitated these meetings, but were in attendance to deepen understanding of strategies to transition vegetable farms to RT systems. Two workshops in Northern NY plus several presentations at regional conferences provided additional venues. In addition, results were shared at annual inservice trainings for NY extension educators. How have the results been disseminated to communities of interest? Results of research are shared with NY vegetable growers through workshops, conferences and newsletter articles. The project website hosts case studies of vegetable farmers who have transitioned to RT methods as well as videos of equipment operating in the field. In addition, we use conference calls to facilitate discussion among RT growers. A local discussion group has started for large-scale vegetable farms in Western NY, facilitated by an agriculture extension agent. What do you plan to do during the next reporting period to accomplish the goals? Results from research from last three years will be summarized for peer-reviewed publication. Current experiments will be repeated for one more year to confirm results. The project website will be redesigned and updated. Additional case studies will be completed and posted to the website.

Impacts
What was accomplished under these goals? Past experiments with sweet corn indicated that the full fertilizer requirement for the crop could be placed 8-10inches deep in the zone tilled slot without any loss in yields. Growers were interested in knowing if this practice could be used with other RT crops. We evaluated fertilizer rates, type and placement in a cabbage field, using both conventional and deep zone tillage. The standard practice was with dry fertilizer, providing an N rate of 0, 120, 180 lb/A. Deep placed nitrogen was achieved using liquid N source (UAN) to deliver 100 lb/a N at the beginning of the season. Sidedressing with addition N during the season helped achieve different fertilizer rates. Two varieties of cabbage were grown: a long season variety and a short season variety. At planting, all plots were given starter fertilizer applied to the zone tilled area near the transplants. Higher rainfall in 2013 led to some loss of N from the trials. The deep zone tillage and conventional tillage methods produced similar yields (no significant differences). The long season variety produced higher yields than the shorter season. However, the highest rate of N, 180 lbs/A fertilizer rate (which included a sidedress) performed the best. No difference was observed amongst application methods (dry or liquid, or deep placed). Organic systems often depend upon early season tillage to stimulate soil microbial mineralization of N. In RT systems that lack this soil disturbance, we have been concerned that fertility might be limiting. We found that fish meal applied as a sidedress 3 weeks after planting broccoli supported higher yields than soybean meal, poultry compost or no added fertilizer. Our organic research trials evaluating strip-planted cover crop techniques in 2013 demonstrated that tillage radish supported similar yields to equipment based RT for a mid-season cabbage. Between row use of oats and peas did not affect yields compared to bare ground treatments.

Publications

  • Type: Journal Articles Status: Published Year Published: 2013 Citation: Daniel Brainard, R E. Peachey, E. Haramoto, J M. Luna, and A. Rangarajan (2013) Weed ecology and non-chemical management under strip-tillage: Implications for Northern U.S. vegetable cropping systems. Weed Technology, 27(1):218-230.


Progress 10/01/11 to 09/30/12

Outputs
OUTPUTS: Our goal is to increase use of RT systems in the cooler climates of New York and the upper Northeast, by demonstrating that these systems can improve soil and environmental quality, maintain yields, and reduce costs on vegetable farms. Since the start of our RT efforts, adoption of RT is at 8,000 vegetable acres in NY, mostly on larger farms. In this phase, we will target smaller scale and organic farmers, with limited machinery and labor. We will also investigate alternative planting and management strategies for cover crops, to integrate these more effectively into RT systems. The benefits of adopting these practices will accrue to the growers as well as society at large, by protecting the productivity of soils and water quality, and ensuring that NY vegetable systems are well equipped and adapting to potential weather fluctuations associated with climate change. Project Objectives: 1. Evaluate innovative reduced or modified tillage systems and equipment for small scaled vegetable farms. 2. Identify strategies to successfully integrate and manage cover crops or crop residue with RT. 3. Quantify changes in water movement in deep zone versus conventionally tilled fields. 4. Support growers transitioning to these systems by publishing case studies and via consulting and discussion groups. Research experiments were conducted at a certified Organic Research Farm. One experiment compared the effectiveness of a Yeoman's plow with wings set at the soil surface plus finishing baskets. After flail mowing a rye vetch cover crop, deep zone tillage will be established using either the Yeoman's unit or an Unverferth zone builder (industry standard). Two experiments evaluated use of strip-planting of winter killed and over wintering cover crops prior to zone building. Treatments combined no cover crop (control), and cereal rye/hairy vetch or oats/peas seeded to between or in row areas. In the conventional trial, the rye/hairy vetch cover crop will be killed using an herbicide one week prior to zone building then be flailed prior to deep zone tilling. For the organic experiment, the bare ground and dead strips was be rototilled or cultivated in early May to manage emerging weeds. The rye/hairy vetch will be flail mowed after vetch is blooming and rye shedding pollen. Broccoli was planted into the zones in both experiments. Soil moisture was be monitored continuously in an on station trial comparing deep zone tillage and conventional tillage for cabbage production. Soil moisture probes were placed at two soil depths (6 and 9 inches) within the two tillage treatments, to determine if DZT changes water movement and retention after rainfall events and if this soil water profile improves after multiple years in DZT. A key component of our outreach efforts involves sharing of RT equipment to facilitate more on farm testing. We also fostered discussion at conference workshops, video conferences and on farm trials testing RT systems. We are developing case studies to highlight successes and failures of growers transition to these systems. The project website will share outcomes with a worldwide audience. PARTICIPANTS: Partner Organizations include: Cornell Cooperative Extension, New York Farm Viability Institute, NE SARE, NY Vegetable Producers Association, Northeast Organic Farming Association of NY, and commercial vegetable producers in New York. Collaborators include: All project PIs., Meg McGrath, Mark Hutton. Training opportunities provided through field days and winter farmer meetings. TARGET AUDIENCES: Our direct beneficiaries are small to midsized conventional and organic vegetable growers in NY and the Northeast. While this is our target, all scales of production (5 to 5,000 acres) will benefit, since all have soil compaction problems and are concerned with soil quality. A secondary audience will be vegetable extension educators and consultants, who will learn when and where these systems may be most effectively applied. Other beneficiaries will include colleagues at other research institutions or extension systems, who will learn of project results via research and extension publications and presentations. PROJECT MODIFICATIONS: Nothing significant to report during this reporting period.

Impacts
Past experiments with sweet corn indicated that the full fertilizer requirement for the crop could be placed 8-10inches deep in the zone tilled slot without any loss in yields. Growers were interested in knowing if this practice could be used with other RT crops. We evaluated fertilizer rates, type and placement in a cabbage field, using both conventional and deep zone tillage. The standard practice was with dry fertilizer, providing an N rate of 0, 120, 180 lb/A. Deep placed nitrogen was achieved using liquid N source (UAN) to deliver 100 lb/a N at the beginning of the season. Sidedressing with addition N during the season helped achieve different fertilizer rates. Two varieties of cabbage were grown: a long season variety and a short season variety. At planting, all plots were given starter fertilizer applied to the zone tilled trench underneath the transplants. Our 2012 results showed that the deep zone tillage and conventional tillage methods produced similar yields (no significant differences) in 2011. The long season variety produced higher yields than the shorter season. The 120 lbs/A fertilizer rate tended to perform the best. No difference was observed amongst application methods (dry or liquid, or deep placed). Both the Unverferth and Yeoman's Plow zone builders found to perform similarly in terms of crop yields. This result was important in that it demonstrated that the smaller Yeoman's Plow built specifically for small acreage growers performed as well as the larger Unverferth unit. Organic systems often depend upon early season tillage to stimulate soil microbial mineralization of N. In RT systems that lack this soil disturbance, we have been concerned that fertility might be limiting. We found that fish meal applied as a sidedress 3 weeks after planting broccoli supported higher yields than poultry compost or no added fertilizer. Soybean meal provided intermediate results. This was the first examination of nutrient sources for organic RT. Our organic research trials evaluating strip-planted cover crop techniques in 2011 demonstrated that the treatments with some combination of Oats/Peas produced the best yields, similar to the bare ground control. In 2012, our results showed no significant differences among the cover crop treatments. The conventional strip-planted cover crop trials showed no significant differences amongst treatments in 2012 and 2011.

Publications

  • Daniel Brainard, R E. Peachey, E. Haramoto, J M. Luna, and A. Rangarajan (2012) Weed ecology and non-chemical management under strip-tillage: Implications for Northern U.S. vegetable cropping systems. Weed Technology In-Press.