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