Alternate Weed Control Strategy in Sorghum Utilizing Companion Crops

Project Overview

ONC19-065
Project Type: Partnership
Funds awarded in 2019: $32,187.00
Projected End Date: 03/31/2020
Grant Recipient: No-Till On The Plains Inc
Region: North Central
State: Kansas
Project Coordinator:
Steve Swaffar
No-Till On The Plains Inc

Information Products

Commodities

Not commodity specific

Practices

  • Crop Production: conservation tillage, cover crops, cropping systems, intercropping, no-till
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, on-farm/ranch research
  • Pest Management: competition, mulches - living
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, dryland farming
  • Soil Management: soil analysis, soil chemistry, soil quality/health

    Abstract:

    Grain sorghum is a primary crop in the High Plains and is frequently planted in a no-till system. Weed management in all cropping systems is expensive for farmers due to fuel and/or herbicide costs. Kansas has documented resistance in 15 species, to six different modes of action1. Even in the most diverse cropping systems, weed management is expensive. Four Kansas famers will plant grain sorghum with a mix of companion crops selected specifically to suppress weed emergence and growth. Each grower will plant 15 dryland acres of the sorghum/companion mix adjacent to a field with only sorghum. The companion crops will be selected to suppress both the density and biomass of weeds. Each plot will be located in a cover-cropped, no-till field. Cover crops will be terminated at (or just prior to planting), before the sorghum/companion mix emerges. No pre-emergent herbicides with residual will be used. Herbicides or insecticides will not be used during the growing season. Comparisons will be made to the adjacent fields. Soil health will be analyzed by studying different indicators that demonstrate improvement. Soil moisture levels will be measured to assess the water use of the companion crops versus the weeds.

    Project objectives:

    • Demonstrate appropriate companion crops can be a viable weed management alternative
    • Provide demonstration plots available for others to observe and host field days
    • Document results of yield variance and economic differences between companion plots and non-companion fields along with soil health benefits (ie: total carbon, infiltration, bulk density, penetration resistance, soil respiration, and macro-invertebrate population counts
    • Measure the difference in available soil moisture for the sorghum inside and outside of the plots over the growing season
    • Share results of the project through the No-till on the Plains network of producers and professionals
    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.