- Pest Management: general pest management
Resources were developed and posted on-line providing the latest research-based information on management of selected perennial weeds in sustainable and organic systems. A mini-grant program was developed to recruit farmers in Illinois and surrounding states needing to apply new integrated methods for perennial weed control. Seven farmers participated in 2008, 15 in 2009 and 13 in 2010. The farms produced a variety of crops including pasture, grains, and vegetables generally with minimal herbicides. The farmers who properly implemented the integrated thistle management system reported excellent control. Resources and farmer results are posted on the ASAP organic website. Presentations were made at the MOSES Organic Farming Conference, IL Specialty Growers Conference, and the Midwest Organic Conference.
Perennial weeds are a particular challenge for organic and sustainable farmers who desire to limit or eliminate chemical inputs to the system. Work was done with Bicksler and Masiunas to develop a set of practices which employed a "many little hammers" approach to controlling perennial weeds without chemical inputs. The approach utilizes timely tillage and mowing, coupled with a warm-season grass cover crop.
Bicksler and Masiunas used Canada thistle as a model weed to test different strategies, and sorghum-sudangrass as the warm-season cover crop. In the greenhouse and research plot, the approach showed promise. Our project took what was learned and tested it with real farmers. The principles and methods were taught to nearly 40 participating farmers in four Midwestern states over three years. Those farmers now have a tool for managing perennial weeds without the use of chemical agents.
Our project increased farmer, Extension Educator, and scientist knowledge of key times during the life cycle of perennial weeds when the weeds are most susceptible to control. It also improved knowledge of how sustainable management strategies can suppress perennial weeds. This was accomplished through on-line fact sheets, reports, presentations at farmer meetings, participatory on-farm research, farmer-to-farmer communication, and project participant co-learning. These outputs improved Extension, scientist, and farmer awareness of how integrated approaches can be used to manage difficult-to-control perennial weeds in sustainable and organic systems. Through workshops, field days, and our mini-grant program we shared with farmers the results of our on-farm testing of research-based, chemical-free, thistle management practices. Each year, different farmers practiced skills that integrated tillage, mowing, cover crops, allelopathy and enhanced biocontrol to suppress perennial weeds. In the intermediate-term sustainable and organic farmers should be able to prevent, or if necessary, successfully control perennial weeds using best management practices for their cropping system. Our project will, in the intermediate term, change farmer, Extension, and scientist behavior and attitudes toward managing perennial weeds. Our audience was sustainable and organic farmers along with Extension educators. We measured success through direct farmer feedback during summer farm visits by the project coordinator.