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Screening cool-season legume cover crops for pecan orchards

  • Michael W. Smith (a1), Raymond D. Eikenbary (a2), Don C. Arnold (a3), B. Scott Landgraf (a4), Glenn G. Taylor (a5), Gordon E. Barlow (a5), Becky L. Carroll (a6), Becky S. Cheary (a6), Natasha R. Rice (a7) and Robert Knight (a8)...

Abstract

We evaluated selected cool-season annual and perennial legumes as potential ground covers to supply nitrogen and to increase beneficial arthropod populations in a pecan orchard. Densities of aphids (Homoptera: Aphididae), lady beetles (Coleoptera: Coccinellidae), damsel bug (Hemiptera: Nabidae), green lacewings (Neuroptera: Chrysopidae), brown lacewings (Neuroptera: Hemerobiidae), hover flies (Diptera: Syrphidae), spined soldier bug and other stink bugs (Hemiptera: Pentatomidae), and spiders (Araneida) were monitored at 7–14 day intervals during the growing season for three years. Aboveground biomass production and nitrogen content of the legumes was measured for two years. Aphids peaked during early spring each year, with the highest density usually on ‘Dixie’ crimson clover and ‘Kenland’ red clover. Density of lady beetles was positively correlated with that of aphids, but spider densities were not. Other arthropods usually were not abundant. Nitrogen in the tops of the annual legumes ranged from 20 kg/ha to 89 kg/ha when assessed after a single harvest at anthesis; for the perennial legumes it was from 108 kg/ha to 179 kg/ha following two harvests in June and September. We chose two annual legumes (‘Dixie’ crimson clover and hairy vetch) and two perennial legumes (‘Louisiana S-1’ white clover and ‘Kenland’ red clover) for further evaluation.

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