Weed Seed Banks Reduced when Tomatoes Rotated with Supressive Crops
A report published in Weed Technology has determined that fewer weeds emerge in tomato crops that have been preceded by weed-suppressive crops, such as soybeans. In addition, it was found that tomato crop yields were maintained regardless of the weed control method applied.
Full-season weed control in tomatoes is considered to be ideal, but herbicide use and physical weed extraction are both expensive and labor intensive. Knowing when to apply herbicides and for how long can help growers minimize their costs.
The researchers studied crop sequence, tillage, and duration of weed control and how these variables affected the weed seed bank. They observed that soybeans, which provide a continuous canopy, act as a barrier that prevents increases in the weed seed bank. Tomatoes, however, do not have such a competitive crop canopy and so allow weed seed bank increases. As a result, soybeans planted after tomatoes were faced with more weeds than were tomatoes planted after soybeans.
Growers commonly apply herbicides just long enough to protect crop yields. However, this study discovered that tomato yields were the same regardless of whether herbicides were applied for a part of the growing season or throughout the season.
Although weeds are ever present among crops, rotating such suppressive crops (e.g., soybeans) with less competitive crops (e.g., tomatoes) is an effective means of reducing the amount of herbicides and physical weed extraction applied to crops and, thus, the associated costs.
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