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Improving Weed and Insect Management in Organic Reduced-Tillage Cropping Systems

Investigators
Barbercheck, Mary
Institutions
Pennsylvania State University
Start date
2009
End date
2011
Objective
Our overall goal for this long-term project is to develop sustainable reduced-tillage organic feed grain production systems that integrate pest and soil management practices to overcome production constraints associated with high residue, reduced-tillage environments.

We will accomplish this goal through initiating long-term experiments on two research stations and complementary experiments on organic farms.

Project research objectives are to: Determine the effects of 1) expressive weed management; 2) pest avoidance; 3) weed suppressive and 4) supplemental weed management tactics on pest, agronomic, soil quality, and economic indicators; and to 5) determine the on-farm performance and farmer-acceptability of a reduced tillage organic feed grain production system.

Extension objectives are to 1) develop new, incorporate existing, and deliver information on organic reduced tillage crop production systems to various stakeholders; and 2) create and disseminate easy-to-use decision support materials online and in print to help growers manage crops, cover crops and pests in reduced tillage organic feed grain production systems.

More information
Non-Technical Summary: Pest and soil management remain top priorities for organic growers nationally. Our multi-institution, inter-disciplinary team will address these concerns over a range of environments in the mid-Atlantic and Upper South. Our overall goal for this long-term project is to develop sustainable reduced-tillage organic feed grain production systems that integrate pest and soil management practices to overcome production constraints associated with high residue, reduced-tillage environments. We will accomplish this goal through initiating long-term experiments on two research stations and complementary experiments on organic farms. The research team and collaborating farmers will develop and implement an outreach plan that includes activities and information products that will directly support organic producers, extension educators and other technology transfer agents, and researchers. All outreach activities and products will be evaluated for efficacy in changing attitudes, knowledge, and behavior. We will build comprehensive research and outreach programs that will have numerous benefits. This project will contribute to organic systems that are environmentally, socially, and economically sound over the long-term. Results from the proposed project activities will facilitate the adoption of practices that minimize adverse impacts of agriculture on the environment by reducing production constraints posed by weeds and insect pests, negative impacts on soil, and energy use; while at the same time promoting the conservation of beneficial organisms and soil quality. This project will strengthen the regional research and outreach capacity for serving organic growers. Developing strategies for farmers to produce high value organic crops may provide farmers sufficient income to succeed on small and medium-sized farms, and support production of organic animal-based products. Cooperative activities will include on-farm research, on-site meetings and regular communication between the research/extension team and farmers, and outreach events dedicated to co-learning with farmers.

Approach: Penn State Univ., USDA ARS-Beltsville, Univ. of Delaware, and NC State Univ. will collaborate to address the proposed research and extension objectives. These locations represent a gradient of climate and growing season length. Penn State and USDA ARS will establish long-term systems experiments that incorporate objectives 1 through 4. Each state will include on-farm research components. Full-entry research station experiments will test the effects of sequential management to reduce weed and insect pest impacts in rotational no-till planted corn, soybean, and wheat. Four pest management approaches (experimental treatments) will be tested in a split-split-block experimental design: 1) expressive weed management (stimulating pre-plant weed seed germination followed by control); 2) pest avoidance - altering corn and soybean planting date to avoid early-season insect pests and weeds; 3) pest (weed) suppression ( using living and dead cover crops to physically and chemically suppress weed emergence and growth), and; 4) supplemental weed control (shallow high-residue cultivation) to remove weeds that emerge through cover crop residues. Measure used to evaluate treatment effects include weed and seedbank dynamics, key early season pest and beneficial arthropod populations, soil quality indicators, yield, and economic performance. Stakeholders will learn about project results through extension events, regular communication, including a project newsletter, websites, and an annual stakeholder advisory board meeting.

Funding Source
Nat'l. Inst. of Food and Agriculture
Project source
View this project
Project number
PEN04336
Accession number
218675
Categories
Education and Training
Chemical Contaminants