Effects of cover crops, compost, and vermicompost on strawberry yields and nitrogen availability in North Carolina

John E. Beck, Michelle S. Schroeder-Moreno, Gina E. Fernandez, Julie M. Grossman, Nancy G. Creamer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations

Abstract

Summer cover crop rotations, compost, and vermicompost additions can be important strategies for transition to organic production that can provide various benefits to crop yields, nitrogen (N) availability, and overall soil health, yet are underused in strawberry (Fragaria ·ananassa) production in North Carolina. This study was aimed at evaluating six summer cover crop treatments including pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum), soybean (Glycine max), cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), pearl millet/soybean combination, pearl millet/cowpea combination, and a no cover crop control, with and without vermicompost additions for their effects on strawberry growth, yields, nutrient uptake, weeds, and soil inorganic nitratenitrogen and ammonium-nitrogen in a 2-year field experiment. Compost was additionally applied before seeding cover crops and preplant N fertilizer was reduced by 67% to account for organic N additions. Although all cover crops (with compost) increased soil N levels during strawberry growth compared with the no cover crop treatment, cover crops did not impact strawberry yields in the first year of the study. In the 2nd year, pearl millet cover crop treatments reduced total and marketable strawberry yields, and soybean treatments reduced marketable strawberry yields when compared with the no cover crop treatment, whereas vermicompost additions increased strawberry biomass and yields. Results from this study suggest that vermicompost additions can be important sustainable soil management strategies for transitional and certified organic strawberry production. Summer cover crops integrated with composts can provide considerable soil N, reducing fertilizer needs, but have variable responses on strawberry depending on the specific cover crop species or combination. Moreover, these practices are suitable for both organic and conventional strawberry growers and will benefit from longer-term studies that assess these practices individually and in combination and other benefits in addition to yields.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)604-613
Number of pages10
JournalHortTechnology
Volume26
Issue number5
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 2016

Keywords

  • Crop rotation
  • Fragaria × ananassa
  • Methyl bromide alternative
  • Nutrient management
  • Organic transition practices
  • Sustainable agriculture

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