Weed emergence and growth in strip-tilled systems: separating the effects of tillage, cover crops, and crop competition

Haramoto, E.R. and D.C. Brainard

Presented at the All Scientist Meeting (2011-04-15 to 2011-04-15 )

Reduced tillage, including strip tillage (ST) which limits tillage to the crop rows, may lower fuel, labor, and maintenance costs while maintaining or improving soil quality and crop growth relative to conventional tillage (CT). Integrating cover crops into ST systems may offer additional benefits related to soil fertility and weed management. This experiment seeks to better understand how cabbage growth and yield responds to these practices, as well as how weed emergence and growth vary in the crop row (IR) and between crop rows (BR). We hypothesized ST fields with a cover crop, compared to CT fields without cover crops, would have (1) lower BR weed emergence due to the lack of germination-inducing tillage, (2) lower growth of established weeds BR due to lower nutrient availability, and (3) better cabbage yield because of improved soil moisture and nutrient availability in tilled crop rows. After tillage, soil temperature was lower under a surface cover crop residue (ST BR); surface and incorporated residues also increased soil moisture. Weed emergence immediately following tillage was 68% lower in ST plots compared to CT, but no significant cover crop effect was detected. In contrast, weed emergence sown at the time of cabbage transplanting (9 days after tillage) was higher with oat residue compared to no cover crop, especially in ST treatments. Final biomass of BR weeds grown with cabbage was higher in ST plots compared to CT plots. When grown with a fixed amount of weed competition, mid-season cabbage plant biomass was higher with cover crops than without, though total cabbage plant biomass at maturity was similar in all treatments. Final cabbage yield was not affected by treatment, suggesting that yields can be maintained with adoption of soil-improving practices.

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