Balancing multiple objectives in organic feed and forage cropping systems

Meagan E. Schipanski, Mary Ellen Barbercheck, Ebony G. Murrell, Jayson Kennedy Harper, Denise M. Finney, Jason Philip Kaye, David Mortensen, Richard G. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

2 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Balancing weed suppression, beneficial insect conservation, soil quality and profitability is challenging in organic cropping systems due to reliance on soil disturbance for weed control. We hypothesized that the benefits of tillage can be retained while mitigating adverse impacts on soil quality by alternating tillage with practices that can build soil organic matter. We conducted a four-year experiment in central Pennsylvania, USA, to compare four organic feed and forage cropping systems, each differing in tillage, manure management, and cropping strategies. Each system was designed to address baseline soil quality and weed pressure conditions arising from practices implemented during the previous three-year transition period. To assess cumulative system effects, we established a soybean (Glycine max) uniformity trial across all systems in year four. Systems that were in perennial forage for 2 years outperformed annual crop-based systems in weed control and beneficial insect conservation, while maintaining overall profitability over the four-year study period. Soybean yields during the uniformity trial were more than 30% greater in systems that had included perennial forages than in systems with only annual crops. Labile soil carbon pools, an indicator of soil quality, were maintained over time in all systems. Our results indicate that soil quality, weed management, beneficial insect conservation, and profitability can be maintained in organic systems when periodic tillage is coupled with perennial forage crops in rotation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)219-227
Number of pages9
JournalAgriculture, Ecosystems and Environment
Volume239
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 15 2017

Fingerprint

soil quality
cropping systems
forage
cropping practice
beneficial insects
tillage
weed control
profitability
weed
insect
soybean
soybeans
animal manure management
crop
forage crops
crops
soil carbon
carbon sinks
soil organic matter
Glycine max

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology
  • Animal Science and Zoology
  • Agronomy and Crop Science

Cite this

Schipanski, Meagan E. ; Barbercheck, Mary Ellen ; Murrell, Ebony G. ; Harper, Jayson Kennedy ; Finney, Denise M. ; Kaye, Jason Philip ; Mortensen, David ; Smith, Richard G. / Balancing multiple objectives in organic feed and forage cropping systems. In: Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment. 2017 ; Vol. 239. pp. 219-227.
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Balancing multiple objectives in organic feed and forage cropping systems. / Schipanski, Meagan E.; Barbercheck, Mary Ellen; Murrell, Ebony G.; Harper, Jayson Kennedy; Finney, Denise M.; Kaye, Jason Philip; Mortensen, David; Smith, Richard G.

In: Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment, Vol. 239, 15.02.2017, p. 219-227.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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