Combining strip tillage with cover crops yields more benefits to Michigan vegetable growers than conventional tillage, according to a long-term study by Michigan State University.
The project, led by horticulture researcher Dan Brainard, examined strip tillage combined with cover crops to improve soil quality and reduce wind and water erosion, according to a news release.
In addition, the practice conserves soil moisture, protects beneficial insects and reduces costs for growers.
The project examined the practices for sweet corn and cabbage to determine which cover crops worked best.
So far, Brainard said winter rye and hairy vetch stood out as the best.
Weed management is the biggest challenge in the strip till-cover crop system.
But that is being overcome.
"The benefits most definitely outweigh the costs," he said in the news release. “It’s all about reducing costs to the farmer, and in the long run, this system really does the job.”
Over time, the system improves soil quality, which in turn, improves yields and crop quality.
The system also reduces irrigation and fertilization costs, reduces erosion and keeps soil-applied fertilizers and pesticides in place.
Less tillage means fewer trips across the field, reducing soil compaction and fuel costs.