Seven Years of Cover Crops in Rotations

A cover crop rotations study was conducted to determine if Coastal Plains soils could meet the challenge of cash cropping most seasons while also advancing soil organic matter and cation exchange capacity.

The rotations were Sudex-Rye-Soybean-Rye-Corn-Rye-Soybean-Wheat-Corn-Rye-Sudex-WheatAlfalfa. Soil organic matter remained unchanged the first three years but started to rise in year four. By year seven, soil organic matter had increased by 40 percent. Soil cation exchange capacity increased by 50 percent during the study period.

Soil Organic Matter vs CEC

USDA NE-SARE Cover Crop Rotations Study Results

Farm Calls: Tillage Tools for “Breaking Ground”

A young farmer in North Jersey gave a call this season to ask if we could swing by a take a look at some land he wanted to bring into production. We arrived to find a worst-case scenario: an old pasture on heavy silt loam soil with densely rooted sod clumps – the ground had not been tilled or mowed in two decades. In addition, there was no plan for a burndown herbicide application since the grower follows organic practices.

New Jersey Ag Agents often field calls like this from beginning farmers with small acreage and urban ag market gardeners who need to perform primary tillage, i.e., break ground for the first time. Working with a limited budget, they face the daunting task of opening up an old pasture like our farmer’s, or soils that are compacted and abandoned. These sites share a common problem. They are too small to bring in a 25-35hp tractor and tillage implements, yet far too large to dig and turn the soil over by hand – even with plenty of volunteers.

Primary tillage using a walk-behind two-wheeled tractor.

Tillage using a walk-behind two-wheeled tractor.

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Farm Calls: Biocontrol of Mexican Bean Beetle

This past week a grower called to ask about a recurring problem,

We’ve got a problem that hits us every year in our snap beans that we grow to sell at the local farm markets. Around June we experience heavy losses due to Mexican Bean Beetle. Somebody mentioned using parasitic wasps as a possible control agent.
What do you know about this and how do we go about getting them?

Mexican Bean Beetle: Adult and Larva

Mexican Bean Beetle:
Adult and Larva

Mexican bean beetle (MBB) has been a serious bean pest for decades in the Mid-Atlantic region, causing intolerable yield reductions. Fortunately, the Phillip Alampi Beneficial Insect Rearing Laboratory at the NJ Department of Agriculture rears small wasps (Pediobius foveolatus) that parasitize young Mexican bean beetle larvae before they can cause significant defoliation damage. The NJDA program saves about 21 tons of pesticide applications that would cost farmers about $450,000 a year.  [Read more…]

Growing Better Organic Potatoes in NJ

Leaf Hilling

Hilling Shredded Leaf Mulch
Organic Potato Demonstration @ RAREC

Shredded leaf mulch application is a worthwhile cultural practice for potatoes grown under organic conditions, resulting in an increase in marketable grades. The beneficial results are seen not just because of higher yields, but because of the incidence of fewer culls (potatoes with undesirable size and shape).

For organic production on NJ’s Coastal Plain soils, our studies show significant increase in marketable yields over bare ground and black plastic production; surprisingly, shredded leaf mulch application yields approached those of our conventional bare ground plots.

This report on field demonstrations conducted by potato expert Dr. Mel Henninger and Agricultural Agent David Lee, documents varieties studied and growing practices used with the aim of assisting Coastal Plains growers who wish to capitalize on the niche of local market, organic labeled potatoes.
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