Mulch Comparison | Weed Management

Comparison of Mulches for Sweet Potato Production          


Organic agriculture has gained international recognition as a valid alternative to conventional food production. The demand for organic food products has recently increased in the U.S. and worldwide. The production of organic crops in the Southeastern U.S., including Tennessee, presents various challenges, including weed management which is perhaps the most challenging.


Sweet potato is a highly nutritious staple food crop.   Dr. Dilip Nandwani  has begun research on utilization of various mulches, which can suppress annual weeds and offer other important benefits such as organic matter, nutrients, moisture conservation, soil protection, and moderation of soil temperature in organic sweet potato production.  Research is being conducted following specifications of the National Organic Program into a certified organic research and demonstration farm at the Tennessee State University.

Dr. Nandwani took the first step toward this goal by converting a ten-acre plot at TSU's traditional farm into a Certified Organic farm and initiated organic agricultural research studies.  Research on sweet potato and specialty vegetables is underway in organic management systems at the certified organic fields and TSU is moving forward with its longstanding goal of enhancing agricultural programs and facilities to become a world leader in Sustainable Organic Farming. 

Specific research efforts of the program include: Identify, assess and promote organic farming practices; production challenges, prevalent in organic management systems growing vegetables, provide professional, efficient and objective organic certification process guidelines to stakeholders and promote specialty or alternative crops to Tennessee growers.

 2014 Vegetable Research Trial at Certified Organic Farm 

Tomatoes                Heirloom tomatoes               Cucumbers          Cucumbers (Pickling type)   Heirloom Tomatoes      Green tomatoes are the favorite
 Melon                 Melons               Beans, melon and cantaloupe  Butternut Squash, Beans and      Cucumbers (slicing type)             Field 6 weeks after planting               Sweetpotato field                
Research student collecting data on organic sweet potato Graduate student Sochinwechi Nwosisi collecting field trial data
Field tour at the 2014 Small Farm Expo   Stakeholders touring the farm during 2014 Summer Expo                              Organic Sweet Potato -- wow! Field staff harvesting sweetpotato with new potato digger                             

 Organic sweetpotato slips of three varieties planted in June 2014 in various mulches 

No Mulch (control)

Control Plot (no mulch)
Plastic Mulch

Plastic mulch
Pine Needles          
Pine needles
Wheat Straw                               
Wheat straw

 Fruits of labor

Organic Heirloom tomatoes taste good!                               I love organic green tomatoes!                               Bountiful harvest of butternut squash                               Harvesting organic cucumbers                              
AGSC3210 Class in the field

 Class of AGSC 3210 in a field trip and it's wet day!