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organic weed seeds

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Date and time: Fri, 14 Jan 2022 13:09:17 GMT

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Keywords: fall cover crops; integrated weed management; reduced-tillage; weed seed predation.

Organic vegetable farmers rely heavily on labor-intensive tillage for weed management, which adversely affects soil health and harms beneficial insects that consume crop pests and weed seeds. Using cover crop residues as a weed-suppressive mulch enables some reduction in tillage, and combining this tool with recently developed organic herbicides may further enhance weed suppression in vegetable production. However, organic herbicides may also adversely affect beneficial insects, and their nontarget effects are unknown. Here, we examine the combined impacts of cultural and chemical tools on weed cover while monitoring activity of beneficial epigeal insects and measuring rates of weed seed biological control to assess potential nontarget effects of organic herbicides. In a 2-yr experiment, we compared three cover crop mulch treatments and three organic herbicide treatments (capric/caprylic acid, corn gluten meal, and herbicide-free) in a reduced-tillage system. Organic herbicides led to no reductions in beneficial insect activity nor weed seed biocontrol. In both years, capric/caprylic acid herbicide and cover crop mulches reduced weed pressure relative to a fallow control treatment, whereas corn gluten meal had no effect. In year 2, a combination of cover crop mulch with organic herbicide had the greatest weed suppression relative to the fallow control. Integrated weed management is a perpetual challenge, but our results suggest that organic herbicides used in concert with cover crop mulch may enhance weed control and reduce the need for tillage, with limited collateral damage to natural enemies.

Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of Entomological Society of America 2020.