Enhancing Crop Productivity via Weed Suppression in Organic No-Till Cropping Systems in Santa Catarina, Brazil
Altieri, Miguel A.; Lana, Marcos A.; Bittencourt, Henrique V.; Kieling, Andre S.; Comin, Jucinei J.; Lovato, Paulo E.
In Santa Catarina, southern Brazil, family farmers modified the conventional no-till system by flattening cover crop mixtures on the soil surface as a strategy to reduce soil erosion and lower fluctuations in soil moisture and temperature, improve soil quality, and enhance weed suppression and crop performance. During 2007 and 2008, we conducted three experiments aimed at understanding the processes and mechanisms at play in successful organic conservation tillage systems (OCT), especially the underpinnings of ecological weed suppression, a key advantage of OCT systems over conventional no-till systems. Our results, as well as farmers observations, suggest that cover crops can enhance weed suppression and hence crop productivity through physical interference and allelopathy and also a host of effects on soil quality, fertility, and soil moisture that we did not measure. Results from the three trials indicate that the best cover crop mixture should include a significant proportion of rye, vetch, and fodder radish as these mixtures produce large biomass, and are readily killed by rolling forming a thick mulch sufficient to provide effective weed control in the subsequent vegetable crop.
agroecology; cover crops; mulch; allelopathy; weed suppression
Journal of Sustainable Agriculture
2011, Volume: 35, number: 8, pages: 855-869
Publisher: TAYLOR & FRANCIS INC
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