Vegetable cover crop twilight meeting August 21

Michigan State University is hosting an upcoming workshop to help vegetable growers utilize cover crops.

A strip-tillage treatment through a cereal rye cover crop is being tested at Forgotten Harvest Farm for soil moisture retention, yield and fruit cleanliness.
A strip-tillage treatment through a cereal rye cover crop is being tested at Forgotten Harvest Farm for soil moisture retention, yield and fruit cleanliness.

Cover cropping in vegetable systems requires a firm understanding of your goals and how to take advantage of crop growth habits while still conserving your time between harvests and weather. Cover crops are often organized by their botanical family and ranked by their different behaviors that benefit the farmer. The behavior categories often advertised and researched are nitrogen sourcing, nitrogen scavenging, soil building, soil loosening, erosion preventing, residue longevity, weed fighting, grazing value and forage value.

For mechanically-harvested vegetable farmers, winter-killed compaction fighters and soil building covers may be desired. A nitrogen credit might be nice too. For smaller, diversified vegetable producers, a cover crop with rapid emergence and growth to put between double crops, or one that is easy to over-seed, may be desired to keep weeds back until spring.

Planting date also affects the level to which any of these plant behaviors help the farmer, and so selecting some goals to guide your decision is important. Below are some potential cover crop rotations for vegetable crops.

  1. Early spring oats or barley before vegetable crop seeding.
  2. Over-seeding clover mid- to late-summer or early fall into sweet corn or late-season vegetables.
  3. Late fall-winter annual grain after all harvest operations are finished. Cereal rye could be used as a windbreak and mulch for seeded vine crops or transplanted cole crops for fall harvest. Wheat harvested right down to the ground for a late short-season cucumber crop.
  4. Late summer oilseed radish for fighting compaction will winter kill and allow for an early spring planting of sweet corn or peas.

For more information on cover cropping in vegetable rotations, Michigan State University Extension experts are hosting a twilight meeting to talk about the most popular vegetable cover cropping choices and techniques. Participants will also visit a butternut squash trial utilizing a fall-planted cereal rye cover crop managed in three different ways as part of a USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant.

The workshop will take place from 5-8:30 p.m. on Friday, August 21, at the Forgotten Harvest Ore Creek Farm at 9153 Major Rd, Fenton, MI 48430, and will include a complementary buffet supper. Please RSVP by calling the Saginaw County Extension office at 989-758-2500.


5:00 p.m. – Welcome and dinner in main shed

6:00 p.m. – Introduce stations, 30-45 minutes each, walking distance

  • Main shed: Cover crop selection for vegetable rotations – Paul Gross
  • Major road barn: Rainfall simulator and other tool – Christina Curell
  • Equipment pad: Cover crop equipment showcase – Dan Brainard
  • Winter squash plots – Ben Phillips and Mike Yancho, Jr.

8:30 p.m. – Dismiss

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