Effects of annual and perennial alleyway cover crops on physical, chemical, and biological properties of soil quality in Pacific Northwest Red raspberry

Rachel E. Rudolph, Lisa W. DeVetter, Inga A. Zasada, Cedar Hesse

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations

Abstract

Cover crops can lessen soil erosion and compaction, improve water infiltration, enhance nutrient availability, suppress weeds, and assist with pest management. However, cover crops are not commonly used in alleyways of established red raspberry (Rubus idaeus) fields in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. Rather, the space between red raspberry beds is repeatedly cultivated and the soil is kept bare, which has detrimental effects on soil quality. Adoption of alleyway cover crops is limited because red raspberry growers are concerned about resource competition between a cover crop and red raspberry crop. A 2-year study was conducted in an established ‘Meeker’ red raspberry field in northwest Washington to evaluate the effects of eight annually seeded alleyway cover crops (cultivars of wheat, cereal rye, triticale, oat, and ryegrass), one perennial ryegrass alleyway cover crop, mowed weed vegetation, and the industry standard of cultivated bare soil (Till) on the physical, chemical, and biological properties of soil quality in alleyways and raised beds. This included evaluating soil bulk density (Db), compaction, organic matter, pH, cation exchange capacity (CEC), macro- and micro-nutrients, and bacterial and fungal community structure; red raspberry yield and fruit quality were also evaluated. Although there were statistically significant differences among treatments across sampling dates for CEC, there were no consistent trends. Alleyways planted with the perennial ryegrass mix had the lowest mean Db 6 and 24 months after seeding. Tilled alleyways had the lowest Db 12 and 18 months into the study. Red raspberry grown adjacent to Till did not result in a significantly higher estimated yield or fruit total soluble solids than raspberry grown adjacent to cover crops in either year of the experiment. Differences in microbial community structure were observed among seasons rather than treatments. These results do not demonstrate significant effects of alleyway cover crops on red raspberry productivity when applied to established fields. The potential benefits of alleyway cover cropping on soil quality may outweigh any concerns regarding resource competition. Changes in soil quality are often difficult to quantify and require long-term study.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)344-352
Number of pages9
JournalHortScience
Volume55
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Mar 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Received for publication 29 Aug. 2019. Accepted for publication 18 Dec. 2019. Published online 6 February 2020. This research was partially funded by the Washington Red Raspberry Commission and the North-west Agricultural Research Foundation. We would like to thank Chris Benedict, Steve Lyon, and Sean Watkinson for their assistance in the field. We also thank Stephen Jones and the WSU Plant Breeding program for assistance with cover crop cultivar selection for this project and the grower cooperator for donating the land, labor, and resources for this project. Mention of trade names or commercial products in this publication is solely for the purpose of providing specific information and does not imply recommendation or endorsement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. R.E.R. is a former Washington State University Graduate Research Assistant. R.E.R. is the corresponding author. E-mail: rachel. rudolph@uky.edu. This is an open access article distributed under the CC BY-NC-ND license (https://creativecommons. org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/).

Funding Information:
This research was partially funded by the Washington Red Raspberry Commission and the Northwest Agricultural Research Foundation. We would like to thank Chris Benedict, Steve Lyon, and Sean Watkinson for their assistance in the field. We also thank Stephen Jones and the WSU Plant Breeding program for assistance with cover crop cultivar selection for this project and the grower cooperator for donating the land, labor, and resources for this project.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 American Society for Horticultural Science. All rights reserved.

Keywords

  • Bulk density
  • Cultivation
  • Ground covers
  • Microbiome
  • Soil health
  • Soil microorganisms
  • Tillage

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Horticulture

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