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Contrasting Responses of Weed Communities and Crops to 12 Years of tillage and Fertilization Treatments

  • Anne Légère (a1), F. Craig Stevenson (a2) and Noura Ziadi (a3)


Minimizing inputs such as fertilizers, herbicides, or tillage may be sought by producers to satisfy economic as well as environmental goals. One of the challenges in reducing inputs, whether synthetic fertilizers or herbicides, or substituting a synthetic nutrient with an organic source, is to identify practices that will provide optimum growing conditions for the crop while maintaining an adequate level of weed control. Our objective was to measure the cumulative effects of 12 yr of nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) fertilization treatments applied to two tillage systems [conventional tillage (CT) vs. no tillage (NT)] in a corn–soybean rotation on weed communities and crop yields. Residual (postherbicide treatment) weed species assembly was determined by multivariate analysis and was influenced mainly by tillage, with weeds more strongly associated with NT than with CT. Diversity of weed communities as measured by richness, evenness (E), and a diversity index (H′), and total weed biomass were greater for NT than for CT. Nutrient treatments had little or no effect on these parameters. Corn yields were reduced by 70% in the absence of N and by 25% in NT compared to CT treatments. Soybean yields were reduced in NT with increasing P rates compared to other treatments, but reductions never exceeded 10%. Overall, corn and soybean had different responses to treatments, with corn yields being far more affected by fertilization and tillage than soybean yields. Conversely, the absence of tillage had a much greater effect than the absence of nutrient input on weed community assembly and biomass, suggesting the importance of a weed management program specifically tailored for NT systems.


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