Best Sustainable Management Practices For Perennial Weeds
Resources were developed and posted on-line outlining the latest research-based information regarding management of selected perennial weeds in sustainable and organic systems. A mini-grant program was developed to find and recruit farmers in Illinois and surrounding states exhibiting a need for knowledge and assistance in applying new integrated methods for perennial weed control. Eight farmers were chosen to participate in 2008, representing a variety of settings and situations. Initial results indicate that some of the participating farmers were helped. Resources and farmer results were posted on the organic website for public access.
Our project will increase 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 will also improve knowledge of how sustainable management strategies can suppress perennial weeds. This will be accomplished through Fact sheets, website, on-line decision aid, reports, participatory on-farm research, farmer-to-farmer communication, and project participant co-learning and a workshop.
These outputs will improve Extension, scientist, and farmer awareness of how integrated approaches approach can be used to manage difficult-to-control perennial weeds. Through workshops, field days, and our mini-grant program we will provide farmers with the skills to integrate tillage, mowing, cover crops, allelopathy and enhanced biocontrol to suppress perennial weeds.
In the intermediate-term sustainable and organic farmers will be able to prevent or if necessary successful 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. An indirect outcome our project aims to change is the attitudes of Extension and organic farmers toward working together and to co-learning in solving a recognized problem. Our audience is sustainable and organic farmers along with Extension educators. We will measure success through surveys of farmers at field days and workshops and through a mini-grant program to allow growers to evaluate and develop a set of best management practices for their farm.
Work Accomplished in 2008:
1. Increase farmer, Extension Educator, and scientist knowledge of key times during the life cycle of perennial weeds when the weeds are most susceptible to control…improve knowledge of how sustainable management strategies can suppress perennial weeds.
Fact sheets have been developed and posted on-line for Canada Thistle and Quackgrass. These, along with additional resources were printed and compiled for distribution to participating farmers. New Ag Network (NAN) articles were written containing the latest research-based information on perennial weed management. NAN materials are available on-line for farmers and Extension personnel.
2. Provide farmers with the skills to integrate tillage, mowing, cover crops, allelopathy and enhanced biocontrol to suppress perennial weeds.
At the beginning of 2008, working with our three-member farmer advisory team, a mini-grant program was developed to recruit at least eight farmers to participate. The mini-grant offered $500 to participating farmers — $250 up front, and $250 upon completion of the 2008 participation. Twenty farmers applied for the mini-grant program in 2008. With the help of our farmer advisors, eight participating farmers were chosen. Once chosen, participating farmers were sent a resource packet, and contacted by phone to discuss in detail their operations and perennial weed problems. Each farm was then visited by a project coordinator, sometimes accompanied by a farmer advisor. Together, the participating farmer and project coordinator devised an integrated management plan that included practices such as timed tillage, mowing, and short-season, annual cover crops, for perennial weeds present on the farm. A follow-up phone conversation with the participating farmers revealed that four of the eight were able to follow through with the plan and report results of their efforts. Only these four received the second $250 payment.
3. Improve Extension, scientist, and farmer awareness of how integrated approaches approach can be used to manage difficult-to-control perennial weeds.
The information and results from farmer participation in 2008 was captured and posted in report format on the organic website. Pictures are included. Reports of farmers’ first-hand attempts at integrated perennial weed control are available to the public (see appendix). They can be found at http://asap.sustainability.uiuc.edu/org-ag.
Presentations were made at both the Illinois Specialty Growers Convention and the 2009 Midwest Organic Production and Marketing Conference. Two field days were held in 2009, both featured organic farms. Perennial weed management was discussed at these events. A total of at least 130 farmers, advisors, and Extension personnel attended these events.
Work Left to do:
1. Measure success through surveys of farmers at field days and workshops and through a mini-grant program to allow growers to evaluate and develop a set of best management practices for their farm.
The mini-grant program will continue in 2009 and 2010, increasing the number of participating farmers to 20 each year. Additional field days will be conducted in coming years, and our evaluation plan will be implemented to determine if our efforts have resulted in lasting change to how participating farms control perennial weeds and increased awareness and knowledge by Extension personnel.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
Four of the eight participating farmers in 2008 reported positive results from implementing the integrated practices. Perennial weeds are especially challenging for sustainable and organic farmers who are unable or unwilling to use chemical herbicides. The research-based techniques developed for this project show real promise in helping farmers with this formerly intractable problem. The techniques, when implemented, reduce the need for heavy tillage, provide cover for soil during times of vulnerability, increase soil organic matter and provide farmers with an effective tool for controlling perennial weeds. Once a core number of farmers become proficient with the techniques, and Extension personnel see results and understand the concepts, adoption will spread across the Midwest, and the benefits will accrue exponentially.
N-319 Turner Hall
1102 S. Goodwin Ave.
Urbana, IL 61801
Office Phone: 2173339654
Midwest Organic Farmers Cooperative
100 A South Lafayette St.
Newton, IL 62448
4N852 Wooley Rd.
Maple Park, IL 60151-8301
Office Phone: 6303656306
University of Illinois
1102 S. Goodwin Ave.
Urbana, IL 61801
Office Phone: 2173331588