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Cover Crop Effectiveness Varies in Cover Crop-Based Rotational Tillage Organic Soybean Systems Depending on Species and Environment
- Vincent-Caboud, Laura, Vereecke, Léa, Silva, Erin, Peigné, Joséphine
- Agronomy 2019 v.9 no.6
- biomass, climate change, cover crops, crop management, crop yield, cultivars, decision support systems, direct seeding, disturbed soils, environmental factors, mulches, organic foods, organic production, planters, rye, soil quality, soybeans, tillage, triticale, weed control, weeds, winter, France, Wisconsin
- Organic farming relies heavily on tillage for weed management, however, intensive soil disturbance can have detrimental impacts on soil quality. Cover crop-based rotational tillage (CCBRT), a practice that reduces the need for tillage and cultivation through the creation of cover crop mulches, has emerged as an alternative weed management practice in organic cropping systems. In this study, CCBRT systems using cereal rye and triticale grain species are evaluated with organic soybean directly seeded into a rolled cover crop. Cover crop biomass, weed biomass, and soybean yields were evaluated to assess the effects of cereal rye and winter triticale cover crops on weed suppression and yields. From 2016 to 2018, trials were conducted at six locations in Wisconsin, USA, and Southern France. While cover crop biomass did not differ among the cereal grain species tested, the use of cereal rye as the cover crop resulted in higher soybean yields (2.7 t ha−1 vs. 2.2 t ha−1) and greater weed suppression, both at soybean emergence (231 vs. 577 kg ha−1 of weed biomass) and just prior to soybean harvest (1178 vs. 1545 kg ha−1). On four out of six sites, cover crop biomass was lower than the reported optimal (<8000 kg ha−1) needed to suppress weeds throughout soybean season. Environmental conditions, in tandem with agronomic decisions (e.g., seeding dates, cultivar, planters, etc.), influenced the ability of the cover crop to suppress weeds regardless of the species used. In a changing climate, future research should focus on establishing flexible decision support tools based on multi-tactic cover crop management to ensure more consistent results with respect to cover crop growth, weed suppression, and crop yields.