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Robust Results from Research on Organic Cover Cropping

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are showing that farmers can fine-tune their use of cover crops to help manage costs and maximize benefits in commercial organic production systems. ARS horticulturist Eric Brennan has helped design a long-term investigation examining several different cover cropping strategies for an annual organic lettuce-broccoli production system. Six of the strategies involved cover cropping every winter, and the other two involved cover cropping every fourth winter. Studied were rye, mustard, and a legume-rye mix cover crops.

U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists with the Agricultural Research Service (ARS) are showing that farmers can fine-tune their use of cover crops to help manage costs and maximize benefits in commercial organic production systems. ARS horticulturist Eric Brennan has helped design a long-term investigation examining several different cover cropping strategies for an annual organic lettuce-broccoli production system. Six of the strategies involved cover cropping every winter, and the other two involved cover cropping every fourth winter. Studied were rye, mustard, and a legume-rye mix cover crops. The legume-rye and rye cover crops produced approximately 25 percent more dry matter biomass than the mustard crops. However, effectively suppressing weeds with the legume-rye crops required seeding at three times the typical rate. More details are provided in the February 2012 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

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