Tillage & Cover Cropping Strategies for Soil & Energy Conservation in Sweet Corn

by Daniel Brainard and Benjamin Henshaw, Department of Horticulture, Michigan State University

SUMMARY: Reduced-tillage, cover crop intensive production systems have several important potential benefits for sweet corn growers including: fuel and labor savings; reduced equipment wear and tear; more timely planting under wet conditions; and improvements in soil physical, chemical and biological properties.  Since sweet corn is an important rotational crop for many high value vegetables, improvements in soil properties during sweet corn production may also have long-term payoffs for growers.  Anticipated increases in the cost of energy and the incidence of extreme weather events suggest that reduced tillage will become increasingly important in vegetable cropping systems of the future. However, concerns about reduced stand establishment, delays in crop maturity, and pest problems (especially weeds) under reduced tillage need to be addressed before growers are likely to invest the time and money required to transition to this practice.  Research underway in Michigan is aimed at developing cover crop and strip-tillage systems to address grower concerns in order to improve profits while enhancing environmental stewardship.

Full article can be viewed at, http://www.michiganorganic.msu.edu/, under the soil building and cover crop tab.

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