Cover Crops Provide Many Benefits-But Must be Terminated

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Cover crops are crops that are planted between the traditional growing seasons and generally without intent to harvest. Cover crops provide many benefits: reduced erosion, reduced nutrient leaching, increased soil organic matter, and improved soil productivity. However, cover crops need to be terminated so that the next crop can be planted and herbicides are a preferred termination method, as described in a recent article about a progressive California tomato farmer……

“During the past seven years, Sano Farms… has also refined a production system for processing tomatoes that uses cover crops, subsurface drip irrigation, and conservation tillage practices. Their system saved fuel by reducing the number of tractor operations, cut fertilizer inputs, reduced labor, improved soil condition, reduced overall variation in yield, and increased tomato yields up to 15% relative to the standard practices that were previously used.

An important component of the integrated tomato production system at this farm is the use of winter-grown triticale cover crop. These cover crops are typically seeded in late October or early November, sprinkler irrigated as part of the farm’s “preirrigation” program for the subsequent year’s crop, and then ended with herbicide typically in early February before the aboveground growth becomes too difficult to manage.”

Authors: Mitchell, J. P., et al.
Affiliations: Department of Plant Sciences, University of California..
Title: Evolution of conservation tillage systems for processing tomato in California’s central valley
Source: Hort Technology. October 2012. 22(5):617-626.

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