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Use of Nurse Crops in Potato Production to Protect Soils from Erosion

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Because potatoes emerge slowly following planting, soils are susceptible to erosion. Planting a fast emerging nurse crop as a short-term cover crop could reduce potential soil erosion. In 2016 and 2017, research was conducted to address nurse crop seeding rates, necessity to kill the nurse crop with an herbicide, and optimal nurse crop growth period before destroying it through hilling. Winter rye (Secale cereale L.) plots were sown at 2.5 and 5 million seeds ha−1, hilled or killed with herbicide prior to one-pass hilling, and allowed to grow for approximately three or four weeks. Allowing nurse crops to grow four weeks without use of an herbicide prior to hilling appeared to reduce yields one year in two. Grown for three weeks, nurse crops provided effective soil protection and did not affect potato yield or nitrogen status at either seeding rate with or without herbicide use.


Debido a que las papas emergen lentamente después de plantadas, los suelos son susceptibles a la erosión. Sembrando un cultivo de cobertura de rápida emergencia, como una cubierta de corto plazo, pudiera reducir la erosión potencial del suelo. En 2016 y 2017, se condujo una investigación para identificar niveles de siembra de un cultivo de cobertura, la necesidad de matar a dicho cultivo con un herbicida, y el período óptimo del cultivo de cobertura antes de destruirlo mediante el aporque. Se sembraron lotes de centeno blanco (Secale cereale L.) en una densidad de 2.5 y 5 millones de semillas ha-1, con aporque o muertas con herbicida antes de un paso de aporque, y se les permitió crecer por aproximadamente tres o cuatro semanas. Al permitir los cultivos de cobertura, su crecimiento por cuatro semanas sin el uso de herbicidas antes del aporque pareció reducir los rendimientos en uno de dos años. Cultivados por tres semanas, los cultivos de cobertura proporcionaron protección efectiva del suelo y no afectaron el rendimiento de papa o la situación del nitrógeno a ningún nivel de semilla con y sin el uso de herbicida.

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This work was supported by funding from Northeast Sustainable Agriculture Research and Extension grant number: ONE16-283C-29994.

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Correspondence to John M. Jemison Jr.

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Size of nurse crops at time of one-pass hilling (JPG 3685 kb)


Incorporating nurse crops at 18 days after planting in 2016 (JPG 3145 kb)


Oat nurse crop at 20 DAP in 2017 (JPG 2163 kb)

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Jemison, J.M. Use of Nurse Crops in Potato Production to Protect Soils from Erosion. Am. J. Potato Res. 96, 13–20 (2019).

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