Integrated Weed Management: on-farm demonstration of recommended cover-cropping techniques for weed management in cucurbit (squash) production

Project Code PRR16-030

Project Lead

Rosalie Madden   Perennia, Incorporated 

Objective

To demonstrate to growers the proper use and the benefits of scientifically proven sustainable weed management techniques in squash production 

Optimal weed management is essential for viable vegetable production in Canada, and it mainly relies on considerable use of synthetic herbicides. Alternative weed control options are needed to help growers transition away from heavy herbicide use, thereby minimizing the risk of developing chemical-resistant weeds. Mulching with dead cover crop plant material has been shown to successfully suppress weeds while minimizing the need for herbicide sprays in some crops.

In a previous project Cover crops and zone tillage for reduced risk weed management in field vegetables in Eastern Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientists evaluated some of these approaches and generated recommendations for using a certain cover-cropping technique to manage weeds in squash production. Through inter-seeding cover crops, the technique integrates the use of fall-seeded rye and banded fall-seeded oats. The surviving rye is left to grow until late spring at which point it is rolled down to serve as weed-controlling mulch. The oats winter-kill, leaving a clear narrow band into which squash can be planted within the rolled rye. This technique was shown to reduce weed pressure and the amount of herbicides needed, as well as increase marketable squash yield.

This project is implementing these recommended techniques under commercial production conditions on two vegetable farms in Nova Scotia. The goal is to demonstrate these techniques to squash producers and to provide them an opportunity to see firsthand the agronomic and economic benefits of the approach in comparison with conventional weed management practices. Project results and recommendations on how to incorporate these techniques as part of best management practices will be communicated to growers in the region through presentations, field tours and mass media outreach tools such as blogs and YouTube videos. It is anticipated that these on-farm demonstrations will help promote the widespread commercial uptake of this alternative weed management technique.

 

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