A review of cover crop research in Florida: contributions to nutrient cycling in vegetable production

Danielle D. Treadwell


Cover crops may benefit the farming system by increasing the efficiency of nutrient cycling, improving soil physical and chemical properties and reducing the risk of nitrate leaching. In Florida, the short intervals between primary crops need not be a deterrent to cover crop inclusion in vegetable systems. Tropical summer legume cover crops such as velvet bean [Mucuna deeringiana (Bort.) Merr.], cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L.), aeschynomene (Aeschynomene spp.) and sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea L.) can fix N between 63 and 278 kgbull;ha-1. These species, as well as tropical non-legume summer cover crops such as sorghum sudangrass [Sorghum bicolor S. bicolor var. sudanense (Piper) Stapf.], produce ample biomass in 60 days; an interval typical of the time between spring and summer crops. During winter months, north Florida producers may elect to plant polycultures of temperate species such as rye (Secale cereale L.) and hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth) for improved biomass production and N sequestration following a late summer or early fall crop. This review provides a brief summary of published cover crop research from Florida during the past 15 years that affect nutrient management of vegetable crops and suggests opportunities for inclusion in Florida vegetable systems.


Nitrogen; green manures; legumes; biomass

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Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc.     ISSN 0886-7283