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The influence of cover crop variety, termination timing and termination method on mulch, weed cover and soil nitrate in reduced-tillage organic systems

  • Sandra Wayman (a1), Craig Cogger (a1), Chris Benedict (a2), Ian Burke (a3), Doug Collins (a1) and Andy Bary (a1)...
Abstract

Overwintered cover crops mechanically terminated into mulch can be a weed management tool for reduced-tillage organic agriculture. However, the impacts of management options for cover cropping are not well understood, including cover crop variety, termination timing and termination method. In a field experiment, conducted in 2012 and 2013 in Western Washington, we examined three grains, four vetches and one barley–vetch mix terminated with two mechanical methods and at two different times. We determined the influence of cover crop variety and termination time on cover crop biomass production and tissue nitrogen (N), effectiveness of cover crop termination, soil nitrate–N and percent weed cover. We also determined the influence of termination method on percent weed cover. Cover crop biomass ranged between 3 and 9 Mg ha−1 and was not influenced by termination time; the greatest production was from three varieties of grain. Rye varieties were more effectively terminated with a roller–crimper than barley. Mean soil nitrate–N levels ranged from 1.9 to 18 mg kg−1 and were the greatest with vetches. Post-termination weed cover was greater in 2013 than in 2012 and the cover crop variety influenced weed cover at the Late termination time only. Neither plant N concentration in the cover crop mulch nor soil nitrate influenced weed cover. The results of this study indicate that cover crop biomass and termination timing are important factors influencing weed cover and termination effectiveness in cover crop mulch.

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Corresponding author
*Corresponding author: swayman524@gmail.com or cogger@wsu.edu
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