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Rolled–Crimped Winter Rye Cover Effects on Hand-Weeding Times and Fruit Yield and Quality of Cucurbits

Frank Forcella, James Eklund, Dean Peterson
International journal of vegetable science 2015 v.21 no.4 pp. 386-396
Citrullus lanatus, Cucumis sativus, Cucurbita pepo, Secale cereale, cover crops, cucumbers, fruit quality, fruit yield, growing season, herbicides, manual weed control, mulches, preemergent weed control, pumpkins, reduced tillage, rye, seedbeds, watermelons, weeds, Minnesota
Pesticide-free vegetables are in demand at farmers’ markets featuring locally grown products. Weeds often are deleterious in such crops, and managing them without herbicides is difficult. Stale seedbeds and rolled–crimped winter rye (Secale cereale L.) cover crops are nonchemical methods that may help manage weeds effectively. These methods were compared over two growing seasons as they affected fruit yield, fruit quality, and hand-weeding times in west-central Minnesota for transplanted cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.), pumpkin (Cucurbita pepo L.), and watermelon (Citrullus lanatus [Thunb.] Matsum. & Nakai). Cumulative hand-weeding times were 82–85 h·ha ⁻¹ in stale seedbed systems but 5–18 h·ha ⁻¹ in rolled–crimped rye mulch systems. Even without hand-weeding, cucumber yields and quality scores in rye mulch were similar to those in stale seedbeds augmented with preemergence herbicide and hand-weeded. Pumpkin yields were reduced by 25% in rye mulch systems, but quality was not affected. Watermelon had yield reductions up to 75% in rye mulch compared to stale seedbeds with weed control. Cucumber, pumpkin, and watermelon have high, moderate, and low potential, respectively, for herbicide-free production in rolled–crimped winter rye mulch in cold–temperate growing regions.