Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Award Date


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department / School

Agronomy, Horticulture, and Plant Science

First Advisor

Kristine M. Lang

Second Advisor

Rhoda L. Burrows


Managing weeds, improving soil health, and reducing the use of plastic mulch continue to be priorities for South Dakota vegetable farmers. Farmers have expressed an interest in integrating cover crops into their farm systems. Clover cover crops used as a living mulch within and along cash crop rows may aid in weed suppression, nitrogen fixation, and prevent soil erosion. However, prior research has shown challenges of incorporating living mulch due to yield decreases. Research conducted in 2022 and 2023 in eastern South Dakota investigated the effects of four clover and four in-row soil management treatments on broccoli and organic winter squash production for small-scale vegetable farms in the Northern Great Plains. Whole plots (4) of Red clover, White clover, White x Kura clover and a bare ground control were direct-seeded in April of each year; management treatments were no-till + fabric, tilled + fabric, no-till and tilled. We hypothesized that the bare ground treatment and tilled clover treatments would produce the highest broccoli and squash yield, while clover and no-till treatments would suppress the most weeds. Winter squash was transplanted into the field in June for both seasons and was harvested in September 2022 and August 2023. Broccoli was transplanted into the field in July 2022 and June 2023 and was harvested several times in August and September for both seasons. Clover and weed count, height, and biomass were measured throughout the season. Weed height and biomass decreased throughout the season in broccoli production but increased for squash due to poor cover crop establishment in the spring for both years. South Dakota has experienced a drought for several years as well as summer heat waves that affect crop establishment. Broccoli and squash grown in the no-till plots were dramatically reduced due to competition with clover and weeds. Results from this trial highlight potential challenges and opportunities for managing clover cover crops as a living mulch during the first year of establishment for organic winter squash and fall broccoli production.


South Dakota State University



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