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Cultural Strategies for Managing Weeds and Soil Moisture in Cover Crop Based No-Till Soybean Production

  • M. Scott Wells (a1), S. Chris Reberg-Horton (a2) and Steven B. Mirsky (a3)


A four site-year study was conducted in North Carolina to evaluate the effects of soybean planting timing and row spacing on soil moisture, weed density, soybean lodging, and yield in a cover crop-based no-till organic soybean production system. Soybean planting timing included roll-kill/planting and roll-kill/delayed planting where soybean planting occurred either on the same day or approximately 2 wk later, respectively. Soybean row spacing included 19, 38, and 76 cm, and all treatments included a weedy check and weed-free treatment. Rye biomass production averaged above 10,000 kg ha−1 dry matter, which resulted in good weed control across all sites. Despite having good weed control throughout all treatments, weed coverage was highest in the 76-cm row-space treatment when compared to both the 19-cm and 38-cm row spacing in two of the four site-years. Soybean lodging is a potential consequence of no-till planting of soybeans in high residue mulches, and of the three row spacings, the 19-cm spacing exhibited the greatest incidence of lodging. Row spacing also influenced soybean yield; the 19- and 38-cm row spacing out yielded the 76-cm spacing by 10%. Soil volumetric water content (VWC) was higher in the cereal rye mulch treatments compared to the no rye checks. Furthermore, delaying soybean planting lowered soil water evaporation. However, the increased soil VWC in the rolled-rye treatment did not translate into increased soybean yield. The rolled-rye treatment exhibited significant (P < 0.01) increases in soil VWC when compared to the no-rye treatment at three of the four site-years. These results highlight planting date flexibility and potential risk to lodging that producers face when no-till planting organic soybeans.


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