Project Summary

Project Summary and Objectives

Weed management is a priority for growers nationally, with the most common management tactic in organic systems being tillage. Intensive or frequent tillage can conflict with the goals of conservation of soil and water quality, and natural enemy and energy conservation.

The “legacy” of our previous transition experiment is a research site with four organic systems, each with a well-described weed flora, soil biotic and abiotic characteristics, and economic potential.  We are now examining approaches to pest management in organic systems based on four different starting conditions, as well as deteriming the relationship of weed management to broader environmental and production issues during the early post-transition phase (years 1 – 3 after certification).  

Our overall goal is to identify production strategies that balance pest management, crop productivity, environmental quality, and profitability in an organic livestock feed and forage system.  The emergent properties of any farming system reflect past management decisions and stochastic events (e.g. weather) that accumulate through time.  We hypothesize that alternating or “rotating” soil-depleting activities for weed management with soil-building activities will result in acceptable performance as evaluated by pest (weed) dynamics, productivity, and environmental and economic indicators at various temporal scales. 

1) Examine the efficacy of organic weed management approaches based on rotational disturbance and/or competition in systems dominated by perennial or annual weed populations.

2) Compare the effects of these management approaches on environmental quality indicators, pest and beneficial organisms, crop productivity, and economic indicators over multiple time scales.

1) Conventional tillage, multiple relatively short duration cover crops, fall-established alfalfa/oat nurse crop (will winter-kill) established with tillage – alfalfa– alfalfa

2) Conventional tillage, single competitive cover crop managed for forage or feed (e.g., sorghum/sudan) - fall-established alfalfa/orchard grass established with tillage – alfalfa/grass – alfalfa/grass

3) Conventional tillage small grain/legume (e.g., rye/hairy vetch) – managed with tillage  - rye – rye/hairy vetch – no-till maize

4) Conventional tillage small grain/legume (e.g., rye/hairy vetch) followed by reduced tillage – short-duration cover crop (e.g., buckwheat managed by mowing) – no-till rye – frost-seeded red clover – conventional-till maize