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Conservation Management and Crop Rotation Effects on Weed Populations in a 12-Year Irrigated Study

Blackshaw, R.E., Pearson, D.C., Larney, F.J., Regitnig, P.J., Nitschelm, J.J., Lupwayi, N.Z. (2015). Conservation Management and Crop Rotation Effects on Weed Populations in a 12-Year Irrigated Study, 29(4), 835-843.


Potato, dry bean, and sugar beet production have increased markedly in recent years on irrigated cropland in Alberta, Canada. Concerns exist about declining soil quality and increased soil erosion when these low-residue crops are grown in sequence in short-duration rotations. A 12-yr rotation study was conducted to determine the merits of adopting various conservation practices (reduced tillage, cover crops, composted manure) and longer-duration rotations to develop a more sustainable production system for these row crops. This article reports on weed density and weed seedbank data collected in the study. Weed densities recorded prior to applying postemergence herbicides indicated that conservation compared with conventional management treatments had greater weed densities in 30 to 45% of the cases in 3-, 4-, and 5-yr rotations. In contrast, a 6-yr conservation rotation that included 2 yr of timothy forage resulted in similar or lower weed densities than rotations with conventional management practices. Residual weed densities recorded 4 wk after applying postemergence herbicides were only greater in conservation than conventional rotations in 2 of 12 yr, regardless of rotation length. Weed seedbank densities at the conclusion of the 12-yr study were similar for 3-to 6-yr rotations under either conservation or conventional management. These findings indicate that implementing a suite of conservation practices poses little risk of increased weed populations in the long term. This knowledge will facilitate grower adoption of more sustainable agronomic practices for irrigated row crops in this region. Nomenclature: Dry bean, Phaseolus vulgaris L.; oat, Avena sativa L.; potato, Solanum tuberosum L.; rye, Secale cereale L.; sugar beet, Beta vulgaris L.; timothy, Phleum pratense L.; wheat, Triticum aestivum L.

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