Using cover crops and crop diversity to optimize ecologically based weed management

2005 Annual Report for LNE05-216

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2005: $98,732.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2008
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $70,084.00
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Dr. William Curran
Penn State University

Using cover crops and crop diversity to optimize ecologically based weed management


This project is building on activities being conducted as part of a USDA Transition to Organic (Transition) funded grant and a Northeast Region Integrated Pest Management (NEIPM) Research and Extension grant. A component of both the Transition and NEIPM studies involves the characterization of soil surface dwelling arthropod populations and how these populations may be impacted by various cultural weed management strategies such as cover cropping and crop rotation as well as by mechanical weed control methods. This NESARE grant is building on this work by expanding our research efforts at understanding the impact of cropping system diversity and disturbance on weed seed predation by beetles. The education project will focus more broadly on demonstrating how cover crops and increased crop diversity promote ecologically-based weed management (EBWM). On-farm demonstrations and field days are focusing on cover crop management, cropping sequence, tillage, and other cultural management impacts on weed management. We are conducting university-based and on-farm research and demonstrations that examine the relationship between cultural practices, abundance and activity of weed seed predators, weed populations and crop yield in sustainable crop production systems. Farmers, extension agents and other agricultural professionals are attending field days and learn first-hand about the opportunities and benefits for EBWM strategies.

Objectives/Performance Targets

Of the 500 farmers attending a field day, 25 will adopt some aspect of ecologically based weed Management (EBWM) identified through this research. Of the 100 extension and other agricultural professionals attending field days, 50 extension and other education professionals will incorporate knowledge into their educational programming, and 15 will work with farmers or farm youth to actively promote EBWM.


County extension educators and select farmers were contacted and asked for input in identifying potential farmer participants. From this list, three farms in Pennsylvania and two farms in Maine were identified and contacted to participate. Members of the team met with and visited potential farms and gathered detailed crop management information about the farm operations. Weed seed predation trials were conducted at both university research farms during 2005 and seed predator abundance was assessed on select participant farms. Field demonstrations were established at four farms in the fall of 2005 for the field day activities in 2006. In Maine, an organic dairy and an organic vegetable farm were selected for field demonstations. In Pennsylvania, an organic vegetable farm/CSA and a conventional no-till vegetable-grain-livestock farm were selected for the demonstrations and field days. The primary emphasis in the demonstrations are 1.) showing how the size of the weed seed bank influences effective control, 2.) the impact of cover crops on weed germination and establishment, and 3.) timing of tillage and cover crop termination and it’s impact on weed control and, 4.) mechanical vs. chemical control of cover crops.

In 2005, EBWM educational field days were held on June 13 at the PSU Russell E. Larson Agricultural Research and Education Center near Rock Springs, PA and on October 7 at the Charlestown Cooperative Farm in Chester County, PA. Both field days were co-hosted by the Pennsylvania Association of Sustainable Agriculture (PASA). Approximately 60 people attended the field day at Rock Springs and about 30 individuals attended the Chester County field day. In Maine, a field day was held on July 27 at the Univerisity of Maine Roger’s Farm in Stillwater, ME. Weed seed predation and a seed predator test kit were discussed at this event. Approximately 85 growers and ag professionals attended the Maine field day.

Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes

To date, five farms have participated in field day activities and 175 growers and agricultural professionals attended a field day where they heard about and observed EBWM practices. Evalutions were conducted at the field days and participants responded very positively about the educational activities. Weed seed predation experiments have been successfully completed at the university research farms and on selected farms. Field demonstrations using cover crops have been established at five farms in preparation for field day activities in 2006.


Eric Gallandt
Associate Professor
University of Maine
5722 Deering Hall
Plant, Soil, and Environmental Sciences
Orono, ME 04469
Office Phone: 2075812933