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Fall Cover Crop Influence on Spring Potato Production

Use of cover crops is becoming a common practice among vegetable producers. Cover crops provide multiple benefits such as building of organic matter, erosion and weed suppression, nitrogen fixation, and improvement of soil health. Cereal rye is the most widely planted cover crop in Iowa, however, cover crops such as oats, oilseed radish, and clovers are gaining popularity. The goal of this project was to evaluate and study three fall-planted cover crops and their effect on spring-planted potato. The three cover crops studied were Cereal Rye, Oilseed Radish, and Crimson Clover.

Quantifying Nitrogen Scavenging Benefits of Cover Crops in the Mississippi River Basin

The sandy soils of Muscatine County, Iowa, are prone to erosion and leaching. In the fall, leftover fertilizer applied to the corn and soybean crop is highly susceptible to leaching. Cover crops have been widely acclaimed to mitigate such issues as they prevent erosion and scavenge residual nitrogen. Although these attributes are widely known, adoption of cover crops has been slow. Information on cover crop planting dates, performance, and advantages are available, but few data are available that is applicable to Iowa soils and growing conditions.

Effects of Reduced Tillage and Split Fertilizer Application in Organic Broccoli and Pepper Production Systems

The use of tillage is widespread in organic vegetable production, due to its importance for cover crop incorporation, seedbed preparation, and weed control. However, its harmful effects on soil health have spurred interest in systems that reduce the need for tillage. Because nitrogen is often limiting under high residue/reduced tillage conditions, fertilizer management is considered key to crop productivity.

Assessing Nitrogen Credits from Clover Cover Crops and Effects of Seed Inoculation

A wide array of information is available on cover crop selection, planting date, and potential advantages, but very little data is available on cover crop performance under Iowa growing conditions. In order to expand cover crop options for Iowa growers, more precise and region-specific information is needed.

Bok Choy Cultivar Trial for Spring High Tunnel Production

Bok choy, also known as pak choy or pac choi, is a leafy vegetable that belongs to the mustard family. It is commonly referred to as ‘chinese cabbage.’ Bok choy is a non-heading form of Chinese cabbage and has thick white or pale green leafstalks (petioles). Leaves are dark green in color but there are cultivars with red leaves as well. Chinese cabbage is a cool-season annual vegetable and is grown by a number of vegetable growers in the state. The crop grows best with short days and moderate to cool temperatures (60 to 70 degrees F mean temperature).

Strip-tillage and Row Cover Use in Organically and Conventionally Grown Muskmelon

Growing muskmelon in a more sustainable way involves multiple management practices. Cover crops often are incorporated into the soil before planting the cash crop. However, they also can be “rolled” and used as a ground cover throughout the growing season. The cash crop is planted in small, tilled strips within the residue. This “strip-tillage” technique provides a weed-controlling, moisture-retaining mat that does not need to be removed at the season’s end, as plastic mulch does. The reduction in tillage can improve soil structure and health.

Strip-tillage and Row Cover Use in Organically and Conventionally Grown Summer Squash

Sustainable production of summer squash involves multiple management practices. Some cover crops can be “rolled” when mature to produce a ground-covering mat. The cash crop is then planted in tilled strips made in the residue. This “strip-tillage” technique provides a weed-controlling, moisture-retaining mat that is biodegradable, unlike plastic mulches. The reduction in tillage can improve soil health. Row covers provide a favorable microclimate and act as a physical barrier to pests when placed over young transplants.

Biochar Application in Potato Production

Biochar is an organic amendment produced by the process called pyrolysis, which is the burning of biomass in a limited oxygen environment. It can be produced using different biomass types, for example, switch grass, corn residue, or hardwoods. Potential benefits of biochar in cropping systems could include nutrient recycling, soil conditioning, and long-term carbon sequestration. Research in corn and soybean production systems has shown promising results with biochar application, however, research in vegetable cropping systems is lacking.

Integrating Cover Crops in High Tunnel Crop Production

High tunnels are plastic-covered, passively ventilated and heated structures where crops are grown directly in soil. They have become important tools for Iowa specialty crop producers to increase production of quality crops, extend the season, and increase profitability. The environment in a high tunnel, without rainfall, limited space, and potential climate control requires a unique set of crop management skills. High tunnel production is primarily dominated by tomatoes. Interest among growers focuses on year-round production in high tunnels.

Summer Cover Crop Influence on Fall Vegetable Production

At the 2012 Fruit and Vegetable Field Day held at the Iowa State University Horticulture Farm, Ames, Iowa, one of the major challenges highlighted by commercial vegetable growers was “weed management.” Growers called for research on sustainable and environmentally conscious (less herbicide) ways of weed management. Use of cover crops to suppress weeds was one of the outcomes of the discussion. The goal of this project was to evaluate and study what advantages exist under Iowa growing conditions for four cover crops to satisfy farmer’s goals.

Effect of Plastic Mulch Color on Tomato Production in High Tunnels

High tunnel production is increasing in Iowa as they provide protection from wind and frost and help extend the growing season. Although production aspects inside high tunnels are similar to field production, high tunnel environment is challenging especially when it comes to temperature management. During summer, temperatures rise fairly quickly in high tunnels and can detrimentally affect crop growth and development. It is not uncommon to see temperatures above 100 degrees F inside high tunnels.

Mulch and Row Cover affect Lettuce Production in High Tunnels

With growing demand for fresh and locally grown vegetables, growers are capitalizing on techniques such as the use of high tunnels for season extension. After a long duration crop such as tomato, planting a quick turnaround crop in high tunnels is a viable option to continue production and increase profitability. High tunnels are an excellent resource for early spring and late fall production of leafy vegetables such as lettuce. Use of plastic mulch as a weed management tool is common in field vegetable production.

Biochar as a Soil Amendment for Vegetable Production

Environmental concerns and the price of fossil fuels have encouraged research on technologies to utilize biomass in energy production. Some technologies being investigated for their potential to provide energy involve a process known as pyrolysis. One of the byproducts of pyrolysis is called biochar. Biochar has shown potential to improve plant and soil health on several unproductive soils around the world. Much of the research on the use of biochar in Iowa soils has been focused around agronomic crops with little research into how it may affect vegetable production systems.

Effect of Lettuce Seed Treatment with Seed Power® on Germination, Crop Growth, and Fungicide Interaction

Lettuce emergence rate, seedling growth, and head size has been shown to positively correlate with seed vigor. Seed treatment practices in lettuce that increase seedling shoot mass can significantly influence lettuce growth, development, and final yield. This study investigated effects of lettuce seed treatment with Seed Power® (a nutrient solution containing cobalt and other proprietary compounds; Stoller USA) on lettuce seed germination, crop growth, yield, and potential interaction of Seed Power® with commonly used conventional fungicides.

Effect of Plastic Mulch and Trellises on Cucumber Production in High Tunnels

Cucumbers (Cucumis sativus L.) are high yielding summer vegetables but are extremely frost-sensitive. Most vegetable growers in Iowa grow cucumbers and constantly explore ways to start the crop early in the spring. One method to extend the production season and start early production of cucumbers is using a high tunnel. A high tunnel helps protect plants from early season frost, warms the soil, increases ambient temperature, and enhances crop growth. High tunnel production is gaining popularity in the Midwest.

Sweet Potato Cultivar Trial

Sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas, is a warm-season vegetable crop that is widely grown throughout the world. In the United States, commercial production is mainly in the southern states. Many parts of the plant are edible, including leaves, roots, and vines. Tender leaves are a delicacy in a number of Asian and Southeast Asian countries. To grow successfully, sweet potatoes prefer both warm days and nights. Sweet potato plants require a long frost-free growing season to mature large, useful roots.

Season Extension Strategies for Fall Lettuce Production

One of the biggest challenges which Midwest vegetable growers face is the unpredictable weather and narrow seasonal window for crop production. The risk of frost damage and low soil and air temperatures during the growing season are major constraints. Strategies that help extend growing seasons are thus imperative for successful production of fresh and quality produce. With growing demand for fresh and locally grown vegetables, growers could capitalize on techniques such as the use of high tunnels, low tunnels, or a combination of both to extend the growing season.

Cover Cropping and Strip Tillage to Improve Crop Performance and Food Safety in Muskmelon Production

There is a growing interest among growers to utilize production techniques that reduce soil erosion, minimize nutrient leaching, suppress weed emergence, and build soil quality and organic matter. Cover crops are now being widely used by both conventional and organic growers to accomplish these tasks and also to maintain high soil fertility.

Effect of Biochar on Sweet Corn Production

Biochar is an organic amendment produced by a process called pyrolysis. Pyrolysis is the burning of biomass in a limited oxygen environment. In the recent past, agricultural use of biochar has been steadily increasing and attracting research interest. Biochar has been shown to reduce leaching of critical nutrients thereby providing greater soil availability and crop uptake. Potential use of biochar in cropping systems could include nutrient recycling, soil conditioning, and long-term carbon sequestration.

Effect of Plastic Mulch on Sweet Potato Yield and Quality

Sweet potato, Ipomoea batatas, is a warm-season vegetable predominantly grown in the southern part of the United States. In recent years, its production region has expanded quite rapidly to various Midwestern and Eastern states. Growing sweet potatoes in Iowa could be challenging especially due to the short growing season. The crop requires a long frost-free period and high soil and air temperatures to produce quality roots. Growing this crop on raised beds with plastic mulch could be an alternative technique as plastic mulch warms the soil and accelerates crop growth.

Managing Cover Crops Profitably, 3rd Edition

Managing Cover Crops Profitably explores how and why cover crops work, and provides all the information needed to build cover crops into any farming operation. Along with detailed management information on the most commonly used species—including grasses, grains, brassicas and mustards, and legumes—Managing Cover Crops Profitably offers chapters on the role of cover crops in broader topics such as crop rotations, pests and conservation tillage. It also has appendices on seed suppliers and regional experts.

Midwest Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers 2016

The Midwest Vegetable Production Guide for Commercial Growers is a collaboration of land-grant universities from seven states. It provides vegetable production information that is valid in the participating states for the current year. This includes fertility, variety, cultural, and pest management recommendations.

Leopold Center for Sustainable Agriculture

The Leopold Center is a research and education center on the campus of Iowa State University created to identify and reduce negative environmental and social impacts of farming and develop new ways to farm profitably while conserving natural resources. The Center's work is focused in these initiatives - ecological systems research, marketing and food systems research, policy research and cross-cutting research that bridges all areas (water, energy, soil and alternative farming systems).

Practical Farmers of Iowa

Practical Farmers of Iowa is an inclusive organization representing a diversity of farmers. Farmers in our network raise corn and soybeans, hay, livestock large and small, horticultural crops from fruits and vegetables to cut flowers and herbs, and more. Our members have conventional and organic systems; employ diverse management practices; run operations of all sizes; and come from a range of backgrounds. These farmers come together, however, because they believe in nature as the model for agriculture and they are committed to moving their operations toward sustainability.

Great Plains Growers

Great Plains Growers Conference (GPGC) is a combination of two great conferences: Great Plains Vegetable Conference and Mid-America Fruit Conference. The three-day conference features presentations by knowledgeable speakers from throughout the nation. The conference showcases educational information from all five states: Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, and South Dakota, along with vegetable specialists and growers from those states.

Organic Agriculture - Iowa State University

Our mission is to educate producers, consumers and policy makers in the research and extension activities in Organic Agriculture both on-farm and in the Universities. Organic Agriculture involves a production management system based on the ecological principles of nutrient cycling, biotic regulation of pests and biodiversity. Synthetic fertilizers and pesticides are replaced by sunlight-based inputs, such as plant and animal residues. Premium prices for certified organic products drive the immediate economic benefits of Organic Agriculture.

Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic

The Plant and Insect Diagnostic Clinic provides diagnosis of plant problems (plant diseases, insect damage, and assessment of herbicide damage) and the identification of insects and weeds from the field, garden, and home. The PIDC is a joint effort between Iowa State University Extension Plant Pathology, Entomology, Horticulture, and Agronomy.