CU Organic Farm Crimping Cover Crop Study

hi folks my name is Shawn Jadrnicek. I manage the student organic farm for Clemson University and we are doing research on organic no-till techniques that use a ryegrass cover crop through the wintertime and then we terminate that ryegrass cover crop. Keeping it in place is a thick mulch to suppress weeds conserve moisture and prevent soil erosion. The benefits of organic no-till are huge for South Carolina farmers because basically this allows them to conserve resources and saves them an enormous amount of time and their farming operations. With organic no-till you basically grow a cover crop and use a roller crimper to lay that cover crop down flat. The crimping action pinches the stems crimps the stems and if you do it at the right time it causes the cover crop to die and what that does it leave this thick mulch in place with that bed cover crop protects the soil from erosion prevent weeds from growing and conserve moisture has a lot of benefits for for farmers and and for the soil and the environment. The problem with organic no-till is that the cover crop has to be mature enough in order for the crimping action to kill it before to work so the cover crop needs to be at a very late stage where the seeds or you know starting to form inside those flowers you want to be in in full flowering in order for it to work that really limits the time frame that we can use the technique to just a few weeks out of the year and the mulch the another problem with it is that you you only get weed suppression for about five weeks and then that ryegrass starts breaking down and we will start coming through it so a few years ago I started adding leaves on top of the crimped cover crop and that gave us season-long weed control by just adding a few inches of leaves on top of it and then last year when I realized that if you add leaves on top of the crimped mulch you can actually crimp much earlier. So last year we crimped a few weeks earlier. This year we’re actually running trials to see how early we can go and what’s the minimum amount of mulch required to terminate the cover crop at an earlier date. So we’re basically trialling and we’re crimping the cover crops several months earlier than we normally would crimp and then i’m applying different thicknesses of the shredded leaves on top of that crimp cover crop and i’m also applying different age classes of leaves and i’m applying older leaves and applying pressure leaves on top of that to see what works better and we’re realizing is you can basically crimp cover crops several months earlier which will allow us to, if it works when we plant our plants into it, allows to do the majority of our crops in using organic no-till techniques and really expand the possibilities with this new technique.

3 thoughts on “CU Organic Farm Crimping Cover Crop Study

  1. Shawn, would really like to see any information you are willing to share on your trials. I am planning to use this system in the spring. I have leaves from last fall and leaf mold from the fall before. We are establishing permeant beds on a sandy loam and using drip to maintain crops through July and August but would love to retire the tiller and drip in favor of cover crops and leaves. Mike at Goodeetens

  2. An additional video covering identification of flowering/ the appropriate "go time" for crimping would be helpful.

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