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Continued Evaluation of Fall Planted Broad Leaf Cover Crops on Muck Soils 2002

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Project Leader(s):

John J. Mishanec, CCE, NYS IPM Program


Wayne Gurda, Joihn Cavallaro and Frank Dagele, Orange County onion growers.

Type of grant:

Cultural methods; sanitation; physical controls

Project location(s):

This work occurred in Orange County. These results could be applied throughout the Northeast.


Many onion fields have been in continuous, unbroken production for decades. Insect and disease populations build up when no rotation is employed. Over the last few years, onion bulb mites have increased as a problem. Some growers suspect mites over-winter on the traditional grass cover crops of oats and barley. In 2001, we planted and evaluated five different fall planted broad leaf cover crops. The fall planted covers we looked at were annual crimson clover, field peas, yellow mustard, hairy vetch and buckwheat. Two growers in the onion growing region of Orange County and one grower from Oswego participated in those trials. Fields were one acre, divided into one-fifth of an acre plots. We evaluated ease of establishment, root depth and bio mass. Growers were favorably impressed with the yellow mustard and the field peas. Yellow mustard for it’s quick establishment and field peas because it continued growing well into winter and established a dense ground cover.

A fear by growers was yellow mustard would become a weed in their fields. This proved not to be the case at all.

One of the hopes of this trial was onion bulb mites would not like the broad leaf covers. Prof. Dick Straub ran trials on all the seed. In his laboratory trials, he found mites were not repelled by any of the trial crops. It is felt mites over winter on almost anything but certainly have preferences. Further studies need to be carried out to establish these preferences.

For 2002, we wanted to follow up and evaluate onion performance following the various covers. Unfortunately, neither Orange County grower planted seed onions in the trial fields planted previously in fall covers. This forced us to start from step one again. In 2002, three Orange County fields were planted in the five covers with a barley check. Growers were again able to evaluate the fall growing properties of the broad leaf cover crops.

For 2003, we hope to continue evaluating the various cover crops and their impact on onion production.

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