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 used in both 2008 and 2009 to find and recruit farmers in Illinois and surrounding states with a need for knowledge and assistance in applying new integrated methods for perennial weed control. Eight farmers were chosen to participate in 2008 and 16 in 2009, representing a variety of settings and situations. Initial results indicate that some of the participating farmers were helped, especially in 2009. 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.
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. In 2009, these resources were updated.
2. Provide farmers with the skills to integrate tillage, mowing, cover crops, allelopathy and enhanced biocontrol to suppress perennial weeds.
In 2009, the mini-grant process was modified to attract a higher number of high-quality participants. Our three-member farmer advisory team assisted in modifying the process of farmer interaction for 2009. Twenty farmer participants were sought for 2009. Fifteen farmer participants finished the process that year. Each farmer participant was visited twice during the growing season. During the first visit, perennial weeds were observed and confirmed on the farm, specific on-farm research steps were explained, follow up contact was made by phone or email several weeks later. A second visit was paid to each farmer to confirm the process had been followed and observe the effectiveness of the method. Pictures were taken and observations documented on the project website. Farmers who successfully tilled infested areas and planted sorghum sudangrass in early June, generally saw success in suppressing perennial weeds. A couple of participants who did not get the sudangrass in during that window, generally saw little impact on thistle infestation.
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 2009 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. They can be found at http://asap.sustainability.uiuc.edu/org-ag.
Presentations were made at both the Illinois Specialty Growers Convention and the 2010 Midwest Organic Production and Marketing Conference, where the information was integrated into a day-long Organic University session, and was the topic of its own breakout session. Two field days were held in 2009, both featured organic farms. Perennial weed management was discussed at these events. A total of at least 250 farmers, advisors, and Extension personnel attended these events.
Work Left to do:
We will complete the project with a final round of mini-grant for 2010. At least 20 farmers will participate in 2010 following a similar protocol as that used in 2009.
We will measure success through an evaluation form administered to all participating farmers at the end of the project.
2010 participating farmers will be incorporated into 2010 field days
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