Alternative alleyways for tart cherry orchards.

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Journal of the American Pomological Society





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Current commercial orchard floor practices in the U.S. Intermountain West consist of a grass alleyway and a vegetation-free strip in the tree row. Leguminous cover crops in the alleyway may provide the orchard with additional nitrogen inputs. Alleyway treatments of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.), alfalfa-clover mix (Trifolium fragiferum L., and T. repens L.), birds-foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus L.), black medic (Medicago lupulina L.), hairy vetch (Vicia villosa Roth), and a commercial standard grass mix were compared in a mature tart cherry orchard for stand establishment, biomass production, water use, and nitrogen content. A subset of these treatments was also tested in a newly planted tart cherry orchard, and evaluated for stand establishment and weed suppression. Results show that alfalfa, alfalfa-clover mix, and hairy vetch had the best stand establishment at 92.3, 94.6, and 91.5% cover, respectively, comparable to the existing grass alleyway at 91.7%. Alfalfa and alfalfa-clover mix produced the most biomass at 5.28 and 4.53 T•ha-1, respectively. However, water use exceeded 5.60 mm•d-1 compared to 2.59 mm•d-1 for the grass treatment. Birds-foot trefoil did not establish very well and did not suppress weeds significantly. Based on above-ground biomass production and nitrogen content, total potential nitrogen contribution from an alleyway cover of alfalfa would be 143 kg•ha-1.

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