Conservation tillage for corn (Zea mays L.) production has greatly reduced the soil erosion potential in these systems, but relies heavily on herbicides to manage weeds. Overreliance on herbicides can lead to the development of herbicide-resistant weed communities and increase the risk of ground and surface water contamination by residual herbicides. Th is study evaluates the integration of various mechanical soil/weed management implements and herbicide programs for surface residue cover, weed control, corn productivity, and economic net returns. A pre-plant vertical coulter/rotary harrow tended to control small annual weeds as well as a standard burn down herbicide program, but reduced surface residue cover by 15% compared to the no-till check treatments. The high residue rotary hoe had little effect on surface residue cover, but provided inconsistent early-season weed control. The high residue inter-row cultivator resulted in 23% residue cover compared to 50% in the no-till treatments, but reduced weed biomass by 53% without any supplemental residual herbicides and 88% with a banded residual herbicide compared to the weedy check treatment. Crop productivity and net return data suggest that integrating the vertical coulter/rotary harrow, high residue cultivator, and banded residual herbicide program could reduce herbicide ai rates by 70% and still achieve similar corn yields and economic returns as the herbicide intensive systems. Such integrated mechanical-chemical systems will increase the crop management complexity for farmers, which may hinder adoption. Soil erosion potential of the integrated systems requires further in-depth evaluation.
All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes
- Agronomy and Crop Science