Video Clip: Long-term Rotation with Cover Crops from Vegetable Farmers and their Innovative Cover Cropping Techniques

Organic Agriculture June 15, 2011 Print Friendly and PDF

Source:

Farmers and their Innovative Cover Cropping Techniques [DVD]. V. Grubinger. 2006. University of Vermont Extension. Available for purchase from: http://www.uvm.edu/vtvegandberry/Videos/covercropvideo.html(Verified 31 Dec 2008).

This is a Vegetable Farmers and their Innovative Cover Cropping Techniques video clip.

 

Featuring

Bob Muth, Muth Farms. Williamstown, NJ.

Audio Text

Our rotation strategy is one year in high value vegetables or small fruit, in our case it’s strawberries. Then it’s going to be followed by 3 sometimes 4 years where the ground’s rotated out. So in effect we’re only farming about 20% each year of our total 80 acres. I implemented this rotation back in 1987 and I know at that time some farmers thought it was crazy to be resting that much ground in an area where there’s high land values, but over the years I’ve realized some real benefits. We see pest and disease pressure remain at manageable levels, soil fertility has gone way up, and stuff grows a lot better simply by prepping that ground between those high value crops.

I think it’s important to note that that 80% that’s setting fallow is not just laying out there just idly growing weeds, it’s being rested by planter design and it’s all part of the total farm management picture. We’re doing that to improve soil organic matter level and to put the ground or make the ground in much better shape. It’s easier to grow bigger and better crops with each passing year.

For us when a vegetable crop comes out or a small fruit crop, I’m immediately thinking 3, 4, 5 years down the road and what I try to do is implement that rotation so that ground will be in much better condition. It starts by, when the crop is finished, simply leaf mulching. We spread municipal leaves up to about 6 inches deep. That’s the maximum amount you can spread in New Jersey by law. Those leaves are worked in the following year, we then plant either hay or Sudex, that hay or Sudex will stay in for about two to three years, we’d then plow that out and we’d go back into rye or rye vetch and then back into vegetables once again. So at the end of that time literally that ground is super-charged, it’s ready to go.

Hay is a significant part of our rotation, we grow both timothy and orchardgrass on the place, I prefer orchardgrass cause it’s a little more drought tolerant. One of the advantages that I see, it’s good not putting a plow on the ground for three years, you can really enhance your soil structure through the rooting action of that hay crop. You’ll never get rich growing hay, but there is a significant horse population in the area now, these are pleasure horses and there’s a waiting market for good high quality hay, which we can provide. It’s a source of income for you when that ground’s being rotated out.

This video project was funded in part by the Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education Program (USDA).

This is an eOrganic article and was reviewed for compliance with National Organic Program regulations by members of the eOrganic community. Always check with your organic certification agency before adopting new practices or using new materials. For more information, refer to eOrganic's articles on organic certification.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.