Project objectives from proposal:
1. Evaluation of chaff collection and chaff plus straw collection practices at harvest to reduce weed species density and dispersion
An experiment will be established in naturally infested areas on participating farms in spring 2016. The experiment will be a randomized complete block design with two treatments on approximately one acre of land. The two treatments are 1) harvesting with the combine alone (control treatment) and 2) harvesting using a chaff cart or direct bale system behind the combine. A similar experiment will be established on two research farms in spring 2016. The research farm experiments, in addition to natural weed infestations, will have an artificial infestation of one important weed species not already in the weed seedbank to evaluate weed dispersion in addition to density. The research farm experiments will allow us to evaluate both practices at the same location. We will monitor the infestation in each plot twice per year. This objective will allow us to assess the ability of chaff carts or direct bale systems to reduce weed infestations in density and area over time. This objective will start in spring 2016 and will finish in spring 2019.
2. Evaluation of seed production, seed height, and seed retention of important weed species at harvest
In the same field experiments established for objective 1, we will evaluate the following on 10 mature plants per species: seed production, seed height, and seed retention rate of the dominant weed species at each experimental site. This objective will allow us to determine the optimal cutting height to maximize control depending on the weed species, and also determine the potential percentage of control per species if none of the weed seed harvested is returned to the seedbank. This objective will start in summer 2016 and will be completed in the fall of 2018.
3. Effects of chaff or chaff and straw removal on soil organic matter and moisture content
The organic matter and soil moisture content will be monitored in both of the research experiments from June 2016 up to March 2019. This objective will allow us to look for differences between residue removal treatments in soil organic matter and soil moisture content.
4. Conduct several extension activities oriented to farmers, ag-professionals, students and stakeholders
Educational materials will be developed to instruct producers in the use of chaff carts and direct bale systems to improve weed control and enhance agricultural sustainability. Scientists will participate in seminars and conferences to reach larger audiences. The scientists with teaching appointments involved in the project will include the new knowledge from this project in appropriate courses. We will also contact community college teachers of the region to investigate the possibilities of speaking about this project in some of their classes. This objective will begin in the fall of 2016 and will finish by the end of the project.