[Market-farming] Rye cover crop; was Mulch

Bill Shoemaker wshoemak at inil.com
Fri Dec 7 08:15:55 EST 2007


That was a great idea using the rotovator without the pto hooked up. We've 
used a cultipacker to knock the rye down but struggled with the crimping 
issue. I'll have to find a rotovator to use. We were looking at pumpkins on 
rye, and have for several years. The  biggest challenge has been mechanized 
planting, mostly because we haven't been able to find the funds for 
purchasing a no-till transplanter. But we've had the chance to observe 
pumpkin plant growth on the rye cover crop. We've had excellent weed control 
too. Even more important, disease pressure has diminished, particularly 
fruit rots. They've been productive and with the new powdery mildew 
resistant varieties the disease becomes even less of a factor. We just need 
to find a way to make stand establishment more reliable. Then I think we'd 
have a great mulch system, at least for space-loving crops.

Bill Shoemaker, Sr Research Specialist, Food Crops
University of Illinois - St Charles Horticulture Research Center

>I have a friend here in Wisconsin that grew winter rye, rolled it down
> using an old cultipacker and then a rotovator without the PTO hooked up
> (leaving the tines to just roll and crimp the rye stems).  He then hand
> transplanted pumpkins and winter squash using a spade.  He then sat back
> to see the results and compare them with another planting on black
> plastic and with drip tape.  Severe drought followed and the "no-till"
> squash just sat there.  When rains finally came, the plants took off and
> did yield fruit (but not as much as the crop on plastic with
> irrigation).  Weed control was excellent, however.  The grower plans to
> continue to experiment with this system and may eventually buy/build a
> roller/crimper.  Seems like an idea that has significant potential.
> -John
> TxBeeFarmer wrote:
>> Steve,
>> Actually, I do live close to Midland/Odessa.  I'm north of Big Spring. 
>> The
>> idea of planting clover sounds good - where can I get the kind of seeds
>> you're talking about?  When's the best time to plant it without 
>> irrigation?
>> I've also thought of planting wheat and knocking it down as a mulch too, 
>> but
>> not sure how to do that either, unless I get a no-till planter.  But am
>> thinking anything I grow and knock down won't be thick enough to do any
>> good.  As far as walkways, I only have skipped rows for a trailer to go
>> down.  Those are easy to mowed with the shredder or run down with an 
>> onion
>> blade or disk.  Really can't plant just the skip rows - only have a seed
>> slinger for small seeds.  Yes, I'd like to know of some local people who
>> have straw bales.
>> Thanks
>> TxBeeFarmer (Mark)
>> West Texas Zone 7b
>> ----- Original Message ----- 
>> From: "Steve Bridges" <steve at texasgrown.com>
>> To: "'Market Farming'" <market-farming at lists.ibiblio.org>
>> Sent: Wednesday, December 05, 2007 10:05 PM
>> Subject: Re: [Market-farming] Mulch
>>> Howdy Mark, here's a couple of thoughts...
>>> On using hay, if you get what is commonly referred to as 'clean' hay, 
>>> then
>>> it's highly likely that you'll be getting hay that was sprayed with a 
>>> weed
>>> killer (Grazon, 2-4D, piclaram) that will stunt or kill your veggie 
>>> plants
>>> when you plant into the hay. An easy way to discern if hay has been
>>> sprayed
>>> is to grind some up, mix it half and half with potting soil and plant 
>>> some
>>> bean seeds into a pot. If the bean seeds develop their second set of 
>>> true
>>> leaves without curling or stunting then you'll know there is no 
>>> herbicide
>>> in
>>> the hay. Chances are this type of clean hay will not have a load of weed
>>> seeds in it...
>>> If you're getting hay that some farmers call 'organic' which is
>>> non-fertilized and neglected (organic by neglect, not Certified), then
>>> you're probably buying hay that will have several generations of weed
>>> seeds
>>> in it. The few months of weed suppression you'll gain will not be worth
>>> the
>>> years of newly inoculated weed seeds that you'll have to deal with.
>>> Being in West Texas, chances are you might be able to find a farmer that
>>> bales his wheat straw, which makes an excellent mulch and is going to 
>>> have
>>> far fewer weed seeds in it than hay. If you're around the Midland/Odessa
>>> area I can guide you to a few farmers that even have Certified Organic
>>> wheat
>>> straw for sale.
>>> I would suggest that you check out a book called Lasagna Gardening for
>>> tips
>>> on how to plant into a layered, or mulched bed. See
>>> http://www.motherearthnews.com/Organic-Gardening/1999-04-01/Lasagna-Gardenin
>>> g.aspx It's gardening, but lots of good tips and growth for organic
>>> agriculture have come from organic horticulture.
>>> One thing that you might try is using a long season clover to plant in 
>>> the
>>> walkways to keep the weeds down. In a field trial of 29 different cover
>>> crops last year I found that red and strawberry clovers keep even 
>>> Johnson
>>> grass from returning in the summer. These were huge trials of each
>>> variety,
>>> 40x800 feet, but where we had these clovers planted there was very 
>>> little
>>> weed pressure all the way through the following summer. This year I'm
>>> trialing this as between-row plantings in cellulose and plastic mulched
>>> beds
>>> to see if it will keep Bermuda and Johnson grass at bay. Also, I've 
>>> rowed
>>> up
>>> my beds for next years corn, planted these clovers and will strip-till 
>>> to
>>> plant the corn next year. I'm thinking that it's going to work judging
>>> from
>>> what I saw in the trials last year...
>>> Another thought is that, if you've got the land, you can grow your own
>>> mulch
>>> crops such as a fast growing sudan, that you can cut and bale 2-3 times,
>>> before it goes to seed, then you don't have to worry about what you 
>>> might
>>> be
>>> bringing in from another farm.
>>> ~
>>> Weeds be suppressed,,,never gone!
>>> ~~~~~~~~~~
>>> Steve Bridges
>>> Texas farmer
>>> -----Original Message-----
>>> From: market-farming-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org
>>> [mailto:market-farming-bounces at lists.ibiblio.org] On Behalf Of 
>>> TxBeeFarmer
>>> Sent: Monday, December 03, 2007 9:45 AM
>>> To: Market Farming
>>> Subject: [Market-farming] Mulch
>>> I'd like to try putting down mulch over my garden to reduce weeds and 
>>> help
>>> the soil.  It's about 3 acres, but I'm really not sure how to get it 
>>> done.
>>> Also not sure how to plant a garden on it.
>>> Let me explain a little about my location, the soil, and how the garden 
>>> is
>>> taken care of now.  It's in west Texas with a rainfall of approx. 17
>>> inches/yr. with very little or no irrigation because the water must be
>>> hauled in.  The soil is a sandy loam that tends to develop "hard pan" if
>>> not
>>> plowed.  So, each Winter the stalk residue is shred down and disked
>>> lightly
>>> to turn everything under.  In the spring, it's deep disked, then plowed 
>>> to
>>> create 36 inches rows.  Planting is done with a 4 row buster planter on
>>> the
>>> bed.  Weeds are either hoed or plowed using knives or sweeps.
>>> The only mulches available are large round bales of oats, hay grazer, 
>>> red
>>> top cane, alfalfa, or similar.  It's not practical for me to get mulch
>>> from
>>> town.  I don't have a dump truck and they don't deliver.
>>> So it looks like hay is my only choice.
>>> But, how can it be put down and how do you avoid growing a field of
>>> whatever
>>> kind of hay is put down?  And how do you get it down?  Should I disk
>>> before
>>> putting the mulch down?  Should the mulch go down in the Fall or in the
>>> Spring?  How deep should it be? How can I make rows and plant without
>>> covering up the mulch?  Should I row it up, put the mulch down, then
>>> plant?
>>> As you can see, I'm having trouble understanding how this is done? 
>>> Seems
>>> the devil is in the details.
>>> Perhaps I'm looking at this all wrong.  Need some help here folks.
>>> Thanks for your help.
>>> TxBeeFarmer (Mark)
>>> West Texas Zone 7b
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> -- 
> John Hendrickson
> Center for Integrated Agricultural Systems
> University of Wisconsin-Madison
> 1535 Observatory Drive
> Madison, WI 53706
> 608-265-3704
> www.cias.wisc.edu
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