Shrub Willow Establishment: Can cover crops play a role in weed and nutrient management?
Presenter: Eric Fabio, Cornell University
Controlling weed competition is a critical component of shrub
willow establishment due to low planting density and initially poor
competitive ability. Recommendations formed in the US fifteen years ago
stress the need for cultivation and herbicides that leave the soil
surface exposed for long periods of time, increasing the risk of soil
erosion and nutrient losses. Very little work has been done to
investigate the use of cover crops for improving the sustainability of
shrub willow establishment.
We initiated two trials in September of
2013 to test the effects of fall-seeded cover crops on weed suppression
and nutrient availability in shrub willow planted the following spring.
In one trial, we tested cereal rye and a brassica cover crop alone and
in combination against a conventional field preparation control. In the
second trial, we tested three fall-seeded cereal crops along with a
conventional preparation control. Cover crop plots received no
herbicides and cover crops were managed by rolling with a residue
cutter/roller to produce a mulch layer. Fertility treatments were used
to manipulate nutrient availability. Weed populations, nutrient
availability and willow growth were measured over one growing season.
from these two trials suggest that cover crops could have a role in
improving the sustainability of shrub willow crop establishment, but
important factors such as cover crop selection and management methods
are important considerations. Lessons learned and suggestions for future research will also be discussed.
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