I love a good story; in fact, we all love a good story. Scientists have shown that narratives hold a sort of “privileged status” in human cognition over logical communication, which is the form that most science writing takes. A good story, they have shown, can stick with people more than data (1). So perhaps a peer-reviewed journal article might not be the best format for getting the message across, but I still want to let people know that our research on no-till spinach after a forage radish cover crop has been peer-reviewed and published (click here to read it!). The important parts (plus pictures) are available on our low-residue winterkilled page.
The short narrative version
Want to know the short narrative behind the research? I didn’t used to like to grow spinach in spring. It always seemed finicky, often didn’t germinate well, and was prone to bolting or pooping out before really producing much. I probably wasn’t a very good farmer, but I’ve also heard from others who have had trouble growing spinach.
When I went to the University of Maryland for graduate school, I knew I was going to be working with forage radish (that’s why I went there in the first place), but when Ray suggested we use spinach as the primary test vegetable crop, I groaned a little bit. Ugh. Spinach. It’s an okay vegetable that leaves a fuzzy feeling on your teeth and is a pain-in-the-*** to grow.
And then I tried growing spinach after a forage radish cover crop. The spinach germinated well, was lush green, grew big and beautiful! I learned to make my favorite Indian dish, palak paneer, with the abundance of spinach from our research plots. If you remember only one thing from this story, let it not be the palak paneer. Remember that growing no-till spinach after forage radish makes for abundant, delicious spinach.
And if that complete lack of data didn’t convince you, then check out the article:
Lounsbury, N.P. and R.R. Weil. 2014. No-till seeded spinach after winterkilled cover crops in an organic production system. Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems.
1. Dahlstrom, M.F. 2014. Using narratives and storytelling to communicate science with nonexpert audiences. Proceedings of the National Academy of 111:13614-20.