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Several living mulch cover crop species were assessed in an apple (Malus xdomestica) orchard understory along with wood chip mulch and bare ground.
Desired species characteristics were weed competitiveness, low growth habit, nitrogen fixation, and potential rodent repellency.
Legume species included birdsfoot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus), medic (Medicago spp.), and subterranean clover (Trifolium subterraneum), which were planted in solid stands as well as mixtures.
Nonlegume species included sweet woodruff (Galium odoratum), sweet alyssum (Lobularia maritima), creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum), and colonial bentgrass (Agrostis tenuis).
Meadow vole presence was evaluated in fall and spring with point-intersect and run-length measurements.
A legume mix (medic, birdsfoot trefoil, subterranean
clover, and colonial bentgrass) had the highest meadow vole presence,
with no reduction under the "sandwich" system of tilling
either side of the tree trunks while leaving a cover crop in a narrow
strip with the trunks.
Wood chip mulch, cultivation, and bare ground control were
all similar, with very low presence, indicating low risk of meadow
vole damage. The results from the sweet woodruff suggest that we
need more research on the potential to select living mulches that
are nonattractive or repellent to meadow voles for use in orchards.
© 2012, Organic Agriculture Centre of Canada (OACC)