[Market-farming] pumpkin trash

Bill Shoemaker wshoemak at inil.com
Fri Oct 31 12:23:22 EDT 2008

Not stupid at all. First, like all cover crops it protects soil against erosion. It also captures free nitrogen and holds it into the next season. In the spring, we create tilled zones before the rye gains much size. Then, before planting the pumpkins, we knock the rye down to create a mulch mat. At that time the rye is just tillering so it constitues a lot of biomass and a significant mulch mat. Using a roller which crimps the rye kills it and helps keep it in place. The pumpkins are then planted in the tilled zone. Weeds are kept under control in the mulched zones and vines grow out over the mulch. The pumpkin fruit set and grow on top of the rye. This has a significant positive impact on disease development, especially fruit rots. At the end of the season the pumpkins are cleaner and for harvesters, whether customers or workers, they can move through the fields even after a rain. We've come to like the system very much for these reasons. Commercial growers in our area are beginning to implement it on a large scale.

Bill Shoemaker, Sr Research Specialist, Food Crops
University of Illinois - St Charles Horticulture Research Center
  Can I ask a stupid question?

  What is the benefit of cover cropping with the rye? Do you cover crop and then just disc and till under for organic substance? Or do you use the rye for something? chop and feed to animals? or just to help with the weeds during the winter season?


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