- Pest Management: cultivation, physical control, weed ecology
Agricultural weeds, or unwanted plants that compete with crops and limit crop yield, are a limiting factor for farmers, especially in the southern US where weed pressures are nearly year–round. This is particularly true for organic growers or any farmer who wants to reduce their dependency on herbicides or tillage to control their weeds, or to depend on expensive labor. These techniques are often economically prohibitive or associated with other negative impacts to human and environmental health. The use of tarps has re-emerged over the past few years as an effective and sustainable practice to limit weeds on farms, but relatively little research has been conducted on its efficacy and impact on the soil health, especially in southern subtropical environments. This exploratory on-farm research examines the effectiveness of tarping on weed pressure, particularly on bermudagrass. Using a complete randomized block design, we explore whether tarping, when used in combination with tillage and moisture, can have an in-season effect on bermudagrass encroachment and reestablishment, and examine treatment effects on soil temperature, soil moisture retention levels, and microbial community health. Tarping represents a unique opportunity to provide an effective weed management practice that is also cost effective, providing better economic opportunities to smaller growers residing in subtropical climates.
Project objectives from proposal:
The project will consist of three primary objectives:
- Determine best practices of tarping as an effective weed management strategy. What combination of practices is best in suppressing weed growth, particularly that of bermudagrass? This work will be done across two seasons, and in combination with other techniques including tillage and strategic watering.
- Explore the impact of tarping and tillage treatments on soil health. Does tarping have a beneficial effect on the health of soil microbial communities and other soil health indicators?
- Examine if there is any tradeoff between weed management and soil health. Does tarping as a weed management strategy help improve yield? Field will be planted between experiments to explore any differences in gross yield.