Schembre, C. 2020, Winter Cover Crop Trials - Winter 2020/2021, Desert Farming Initiative, Experiment Station, University of Nevada, Reno

Winter cover crops have become a popular and effective soil health management practice in many sustainable agricultural systems around the world.  In the United States many small organic farmers rely on cover crops to protect the soil from erosion and for maintaining organic matter content and building soil fertility.  Many large scale conventional farms have innovated winter cover cropping techniques and developed equipment, for example by terminating  summer crop with a roller crimper, followed up with a no-till drill seeding.  Although there are many known winter cover crop species that work well in the Northern Hemisphere, in the high desert climate there is a greater challenge to establish and maintain winter cover crops successfully through the season.  Namely, there is very little to no fall precipitation; many irrigation delivery systems are shut down in early to mid-fall; freezing temperatures can persist in early to mid-fall when germination is occurring; and the very cold winter temperatures are not conducive for many winter cover crop species. 

At DFI we are integrating many types of winter cover crop species into our farming system as a demonstration and trialing program.  Our primary goals in our early demonstrations are to

  1. Understand the timing and establishment of species and degree of maturity for winter survival,
  2. Investigate the best species and varieties for our climate, and to
  3. Provide outreach and education regarding soil health management with the use of winter cover crops (assuming we are successful!).

Below is a description of what we seeded this year in the field and the seed source. 

DFI Winter Crop List 2020/21

  • Tillage Daikon Radish - Great Basin Seeds
  • Common Vetch, VNS – Great Basin Seeds
  • Dwarf Siberian Kale, Forage Kale – Great Basin Seeds 
  • Mighty Mustard Mix – Great Basin Seeds
    • White Gold Mustard
    • Kodiak Oriental Mustard
    • Pacific Gold Mustard
  • Brassica Mix - Leballister Seed
    • 40% Nemagon Mustard
    • 30% Oriental/Common Mustard
    • 15% Canola
    • 15% Daikon Radish
  • Legume Cover Special Mix - Leballister Seed
    • Bell Beans
    • Common Vetch
    • Magnus Peas
    • Dundale Peas
  • Organic Soil Builder Mix - Leballister Seed
    • Bell Beans
    • Magnus Peas
    • Dundale Peas
    • Common Vetch
    • Barley
    • Oats
  • Fava Bean, Sweet Lorane – Adaptive Seeds
  • Camelina – Adaptive Seeds
  • Winter Cereal Rye – Leballister Seed
  • Triticale, Trios 888 – Leballister Seed
 

Winter Cover Crop Gallery

Camelina A winter-hardy annual used to suppress weeds in the spring and scavenge remaining nitrogen and phosphorus in the fall and spring.
Camilina in the field
Mighty Mustard Mix Used as a trap crop for some harmful nematodes, flea leaf beetles and cabbage aphids.
mustard in the field
Triticale A hybrid of wheat (Triticum) and rye (Secale)
triticale in the field
Fields after the first snow storm University property just off Valley Road, Reno, NV.
snowy field

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