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No-till planting organic soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] into roller-crimped cereal rye (Secale cereale L.) can have several advantages over traditional tillage-based organic production. However, suboptimal cereal rye growth in fields with large populations of weeds may result in reduced weed suppression, weed–crop competition, and soybean yield loss. Ecological weed management theory suggests that integrating multiple management practices that may be weakly effective on their own can collectively provide high levels of weed suppression. In 2021 and 2022, a field experiment was conducted in central New York to evaluate the performance of three weed management tactics implemented alone and in combination in organic no-till soybean planted into both cereal rye mulch and no mulch: (1) increasing crop seeding rate, (2) interrow mowing, and (3) weed electrocution. A nontreated control treatment that did not receive any weed management and a weed-free control treatment were also included. Cereal rye was absent from two of the five fields where the experiment was repeated; however, the presence of cereal rye did not differentially affect results, and thus data were pooled across fields. All treatments that included interrow mowing reduced weed biomass by at least 60% and increased soybean yield by 14% compared with the nontreated control. The use of a high seeding rate or weed electrocution, alone or in combination, did not improve weed suppression or soybean yield relative to the nontreated control. Soybean yield across all treatments was at least 22% lower than in the weed-free control plot. Future research should explore the effects of the tactics tested on weed population and community dynamics over an extended period. Indirect effects from interrow mowing and weed electrocution should also be studied, such as the potential for improved harvestability, decreased weed seed production and viability, and the impacts on soil organisms and agroecosystem biodiversity.
Kernza® intermediate wheatgrass [Thinopyrum intermedium (Host) Barkworth & Dewey], the first perennial grain crop to come to market in North America, can provide a number of ecosystem services when integrated into cropping systems that are dominated by annual grain crops. However, grain yield from Kernza is lower than comparable annual cereal crops such as wheat and oats. Also, although Kernza is a long-lived perennial that can persist for decades, grain yield tends to decline over time as Kernza stands age leading most farmers to replant or rotate to a different crop after 3–5 yrs. Increased intraspecific competition as stand density increases with age has been reported to cause grain yield declines. We investigated the effect of strip-tillage applied at two different timings, between the third and fourth grain harvests, from a Kernza stand in upstate New York. Strip-tillage applied in late fall as plants were entering dormancy increased grain yield by 61% when compared to the control treatment without strip-tillage. However, total crop biomass was not reduced resulting in a greater harvest index for the fall strip-tillage treatment. Strip-tillage applied before stem elongation the following spring reduced overall tiller density and total crop biomass but did not impact tiller fertility or grain yield compared to the control treatment without strip-tillage. Increased grain yield in the fall strip-tillage treatment was due to an increase in the percentage of tillers that produced mature seedheads. This suggests that grain yield decline over time is at least partially caused by competition between tillers in dense stands. Results support further research and development of strip-tillage and other forms of managed disturbance as tools for maintaining Kernza grain yield over time.
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