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Comparing Weed Suppression in No-Till and Conventionally Tilled Pumpkin Systems that Utilize Stale Seedbed Techniques and Transplants 2000

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Principal Investigator: Ted Blomgren, Capital District Vegetable Program, Cornell Cooperative Extension, 90 State Street, Suite 600, Albany, NY 12207

Cooperators: John Mishanec, Vegetable IPM Program, Cornell Cooperative Extension, 90 State Street, Suite 600, Albany, NY 12207; Ben Waldbillig, Vly Creek Farm, Guilderland, NY 12218

Introduction

Pumpkins are produced on 6,000 to 7,000 acres in New York State; and are worth $17 to 20 million annually (Crop Profiles of 15 New York Vegetables, 1999). Pumpkin acreage has steadily increased throughout the Northeast because of strong local demand for the crop and increased opportunities to ship pumpkins outside the region. Pests of pumpkins are numerous and difficult to control, however, and the strategies that provide the best pest control are relatively costly. Because profit margins are narrow, pumpkin growers are seeking ways to contain costs.

Reduced-tillage vegetable systems that utilize cover crops as mulches have been under investigation for many years. These systems have been reported to increase profitability, enhance soil quality and reduce pesticide applications. Nevertheless, growers in New York have been reluctant to utilize reduced-tillage systems on their farms because of the difficulty of achieving good crop stands in high residue environments, the fear of crop yield reductions or delays because of cold soils, the lack of appropriate equipment and expertise, and the unpredictability of weed control.

Objectives

The primary objectives of this research were a) to learn whether a strategy that combines the use of transplants and the creation of a stale seedbed in a reduced-tillage system offers improved weed control when compared to direct seeding, and b) to learn whether a stale seedbed/transplanting strategy is more weed suppressive when used in a no-till/cover crop system than when used in a conventional tillage system (i.e., to learn the contribution of the cover crop in suppressing weeds).