HortScience 43:862-867. 2008.

Rye mulch managment affects short-term indicators of soil quality in the transition to conservation tillage for cabbage

Mochizuki, M.J., A. Rangarajan, H. M. van Es, R.R. Bellinder, T. Björkman.

Department of Horticultural Sciences, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Cornell University, Geneva, NY 14456

ABSTRACT   If benefits of conservation tillage can be quantified even in the transition year from conventional tillage, growers will more likely integrate practices that maintain or enhance soil quality and productivity. The management of surface residue is an important component of conservation tillage, especially in cool, rainy climates where
vegetable growth and yield reductions have been observed when heavy residue is present. Cereal rye (Secale cereale L.), grown until flowering, was killed with glyphosate and was then cut and removed (stubble treatment) or rolled or chopped to form a surface mulch (mulched treatment) before transplanting cabbage. Rolled mulch increased soil wet aggregate stability by 4% and reduced soil penetrometer resistance by up to 0.5 MPa compared with rye stubble treatments in 2003. In 2004, frequent rains saturated soils and may have accelerated the decomposition of chopped mulch, minimizing treatment effects. Rolled mulchreduced soil temperatures by up to 2.8°C in 2003, but June transplanting of cabbage probably minimized the impact of soil temperature. Mulched treatments did not delay cabbage maturity or affect head quality characteristics such as color or uniformity. Although rolled mulch reduced cabbage growth by as much as 30% and yield by 21% in 2003, chopped mulch did not affect growth or yield in 2004. Yield reduction may be over come by killing the rye relatively early in the spring or retaining only the surface stubble; these strategies may maintain or measurably improve soil quality even in the transition year to conservation tillage.

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