Maynard, Elizabeth, "No-till Pumpkin after Winter Rye Cover Crop, Northern Indiana, 2021" (2022). Midwest Vegetable Trial Reports. Paper 232.
Date of this Version
conservation tillage, pumpkins, Cucurbita pepo, no-tillage, vegetables
No-till planting of pumpkin into a killed winter rye cover crop is a system used by growers in a number of states, including Indiana. Advantages mentioned by producers in addition to soil health benefits from the cover crop include cleaner pumpkins at harvest, and in rainy seasons, less mud in the field at harvest time. This paper reports on a project to develop a workable no-till system at a university research farm that can be used for demonstration and in future research to better understand and improve production practices. The trial included two methods for killing rye in no-till systems: herbicide applied at the boot stage of rye and roller-crimping at the time of planting. Jack-o-lantern pumpkins produced greater yield in conventional tillage than in no-till in this trial. The effects of tillage treatment on marketable yield were similar for direct-seeded and transplanted crops, with conventional plots producing 40% more by number and 58% more by weight than no-till plots. In direct-seeded plots, the conventional treatment produced the largest marketable pumpkins, 22% heavier than in no-till plots. In transplanted plots pumpkin size was not affected by tillage treatments. Weed pressure differed among the tillage treatments before in-season control measures in July: herbicide-killed rye and conventional tillage had more weed pressure than roller-crimped rye. For direct-seeded crops, emergence was slower and more variable in no-till treatments than in conventional tillage. The longest delay in emergence occurred where rye was killed by roller-crimping. Key challenges that remain for direct-seeded no-till pumpkins are achieving good furrow closure and reducing seed predation. For both direct-seeded and transplanted pumpkins, the next steps include exploring ways to overcome other factors that reduce growth and yield. Certainly pumpkin yield is not the only measure of success in this system–the benefits of reduced tillage and biomass input to the soil that have been documented by many others also have much value.