The Plants Protecting Plants project is another one of Rodale Institute’s several ongoing experiments aimed at improving soil health.
The project, started in 2013, is intended to develop improved agronomic methods of establishing cash crops while also suppressing weeds in organic no-till systems.
Directed by Dr. Kris Nichols, the trial is meant to discover whether or not a perennial plant can be used as a cover crop to combat weeds and protect the soil. This way, farmers will have a perennial cover that does not need to be planted every year, saving annual seed costs.
In order for the project to work, our researchers had to find plants that would spread across the soil surface, but wouldn’t grow too tall and interfere with either the cash crop growth or harvest. Several different types of plants were considered for the project, including avens, evening primrose, chamomile, yarrow, thyme, sedum, dianthus, self-heal, blue lupine, and fameflower. After several months of greenhouse and field research, five of these were selected of which chamomile was found to be the most effective weed combatant, able to withstand being trampled or driven over by heavy equipment during field operations, and the least intrusive.
While soybeans and corn are the main cash grain crops being tested in this project, we are also testing a variety of other agricultural enterprises, such as vegetable production, orchards and pastures.
Stay tuned for more updates, videos and web articles regarding the Plant Protecting Plants project!
This material is based upon work supported by the Natural Resources Conservation Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, under Grant Agreement Number 69-2D37-13-670. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Dr. Kris Nichols gives us a quick peak at this soil health projects.