New cover crops and cover crop management for organic vegetable producers in Maryland (yr. 1)

This project was designed to provide the organic farmers with information they are seeking and have requested,
specifically regarding the use of cover crops other than cereal rye and hairy vetch. This information will help
organic farmers increase their farm productivity while using natural, sustainable, on-farm methods to minimize
weeds, maintain soil quality, and provide nitrogen.
The project has 3 objectives:
1. Screen a total of 30 – 40 unfamiliar cool-season and warm-season cover crops to evaluate their growth and
potential use in Maryland organic vegetable cropping systems. Measure ground cover, growth rate,
biomass production, and mulch to evaluate these crops. These factors will indicate the crops’ abilities to
suppress weeds while growing and as a mulch, to provide organic matter and nitrogen to the soil.
2. Using input from organic farmers, identify the most promising cover crops (approximately 6 fall-seeded
and 6 spring/summer seeded) and determine their optimum planting date and nitrogen release.
3. Provide these results directly to organic farmers in the region to help them decide if and how best to
incorporate these crops into their farming systems. This will be done through field days, twilight
meetings, and written material.
The project will begin in the fall of 2001 and will end in the fall of 2004.