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High-residue cultivation is an effective integrated weed management tool

 

Reduced-tillage soybean and corn production systems rely heavily on herbicides for weed management.  The evolution and spread of herbicide-resistant weeds in these systems highlights the need for alternative weed control tactics that compliment soil health goals. 

In an article recently published in Agronomy Journal, researchers evaluated timing and frequency of shallow high-residue cultivation with or without cover crop residue in direct-seeded soybean and corn. They compared weed control and yields of cultivated treatments with an herbicide-only check and conducted an economic analysis to evaluate costs associated with the integrated weed management approach.

High-residue cultivator in a corn plot with hairy vetch-triticale cover crop residue

Researchers found that banded herbicide application plus two passes with a high-residue cultivator reduced weed biomass to 500 kg ha-1 or less and resulted in similar yields to the herbicide-only check.  No additional weed control or yield benefit was obtained with a third cultivation.  Cover crop residues increased weed growth, but also increased crop yield in dry years and reduced weed growth without influencing yield in wet years.  The economic analysis showed that soybean yield increases associated with cover crop use exceeded additional costs in 1 of 3 years while in corn, additional costs were only exceeded if nitrogen credit from the cover crop offset fertilizer costs.

This study confirms that integrated weed management approaches can yield similarly to herbicide-only programs while adding much needed diversity to weed control in reduced-tillage systems.

Read the full article in Agronomy Journal. Free preview available from Sept 26 - October 3.