Benefits of Vetch and Rye Cover Crops to Organic Sweet Corn Production
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Leguminous cover crops combined with conservation tillage practices can have effects on corn yields by delivering heavy contributions of mineralized nitrogen (N) to the cash crop. Implementation of leguminous cover crops to areas solely containing cash crops can have an effect on the emergence and biomass of weeds in between corn rows spaces. I studied Striptillage production of sweet corn (Zea mays) at Kellogg Biological Station, MI, to determine cover crop management practices that maximize yield and suppress weeds growing between corn rows. Cover crops used were hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth) and rye (Secale cereale L.). Rye was planted in all between-row areas that did not contain corn. Three treatments consisted of three cover crop combinations: no cover crop (NC); vetch planted solely in the inrow areas containing corn (VI) and vetch planted both in-row and between-row (VIB). Corn yield was significantly higher when corn was planted with vetch (VI & VIB) compared to treatments not containing a cover crop (NC). Nitrogen content in-row was also significantly higher for VI & VIB areas compared to NC areas. Trends were observed, showing higher between-row weed emergence when between-row areas contained vetch (VIB) compared to areas containing vetch in the in-row only (VI). The trend however was not found to be statistically significant. Our study shows, the implementation of a nitrogen fixing leguminous cover crop to in-row areas only, will increase sweet corn yield and better control between-row weed emergence.