[Market-farming] Legume Cover Crops and Green Manure

Steve Diver steved at ncat.org
Wed Sep 14 15:23:30 EDT 2005


Various types of clovers, vetches, peas, and medics
come to mind.


Key factors for West Texas, dryland farming:

*establish with fall rainfalls for seed-soil moisture
*good seed-soil contact
*winter hardy legume species


Winter-killed mulches as alternative:

*plant spring cereals (oats, wheat) in early fall to
create a winter-killed mulch via freezing temperatures
*dead mulch provides soil cover and retains
soil moisture for spring crop


Since you are talking about a specific agroclimatic
zone under dryland farming conditions, you can find
helpful data from related bioregions.

Literature on cover crops for the Southern Great
Plains, the Northen Great Plains, and even the
mediterranean climate of California, can provide tips
on dryland cropping systems that use winter annual
legumes.

The UC-SAREP Cover Crops Database is a great
source for legume species characteristics, with
notes and data.

Look through SAREP's database for medics and
clovers adapted to the Mediterranean climates of
California and Australia.

The ley-farming system from Australia has been
used as a model for cereal-pasture rotations in
the Great Plains and Intermountain West of
the United States.

A legume-fallow rotation with vegetables
would follow similar principles.

For example, the green-fallow rotations with vegetables
that Anne and Eric Nordell employ with horse-drawn
equipment under dryfarming conditions in Pennsylvania
can provide practical ideas... if you have enough land
to grow in blocks.

In Zone 7b, a key factor for legume selection
is hardiness to winter killing temperatures.

E.g.,
http://www.sarep.ucdavis.edu/cgi-bin/ccrop.EXE/show_crop_4

"In California, Texas, and Oregon where winter grown
barrel medic has been tested, the following general
gradient of winter kill can be used as a guide:"

"Medics: 18°F (killing temperature) Berseem clover:
16°F Subclover sp. (varies): 14°F 'Hykon' rose clover:
10°F Crimson clover: 10°F 'Overton' rose clover: 0°F"



The Extension Service, Ag Experiment Station, and
USDA literature is a reliable source for cover crops
and forage legumes.

E.g.,

Texas Forages - Planting Winter Annual Legumes
http://stephenville.tamu.edu/~butler/plantingwinterannuals.pdf

Forage Legumes for Texas
http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/extension/Texascrops/foragelegumes/

Forages of Texas
http://stephenville.tamu.edu/~butler/foragesoftexas/

Forage Legumes - Oklahoma
http://forage.okstate.edu/images/photographs.htm

and

Cover Crop Effect on Soil Water Relations
http://tinyurl.com/dyks8 [PDF]

Source:
USDA-ARS Conservation and Production Research
Laboratory, Water Management Research Unit in
Bushland, Texas


and

Dr. J. D. Bilbro
USDA - ARS Wind Erosion and Water Conservation Research Unit
Big Spring, Texas
http://www.lbk.ars.usda.gov/wewc/jbilbro.htm

Bilbro, J.D. 1989. Evaluation of sixteen fall-seeded cultivars for
controlling wind erosion. J. Soil Water Conserv. 44(3): 228-231.


and

Winter Survival of Austrian Winter Pea and Annual Medic
on the Western High Plains
http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/proceedings1996/v3-237.html

Special Purpose Forage Legumes
http://www.hort.purdue.edu/newcrop/proceedings1990/V1-183.html

Hope these items are helpful,

Steve Diver

P.S.  So, how "do" you raise 2 acres of vegetables on 18 inches
of rainfall, with no irrigation?


 >I need suggestions for legume based, green manure/cover crops on my
 >vegetable garden this Fall , Winter, and Spring.  The garden covers 2 
acres
 >with sandy loam soil.  Rainfall averages 18 inches/yr.and is in west Texas
 >zone 7b.  No irrigation is available.
 >
 >Thanks for your help.
 >
 >TxBeeFarmer
 >Mark (West Texas - Zone 7b)






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