Integrated weed management tactics are necessary to develop cropping systems that enhance soil quality using conservation tillage and reduced herbicide or organic weed management. In this study, we varied planting and termination date of two cereal rye cultivars (‘Aroostook’ and ‘Wheeler’) and a rye/hairy vetch mixture to evaluate cover-crop biomass production and subsequent weed suppression in no-till planted soybean. Cover crops were killed with a burn-down herbicide and roller-crimper and the weed-suppressive effects of the remaining mulch were studied. Cover-crop biomass increased approximately 2,000 kg ha−1 from latest to earliest fall planting dates (August 25–October 15) and for each 10-d incremental delay in spring termination date (May 1–June 1). Biomass accumulation for cereal rye was best estimated using a thermal-based model that separated the effects of fall and spring heat units. Cultivars differed in their total biomass accumulation; however, once established, their growth rates were similar, suggesting the difference was mainly due to the earlier emergence of Aroostook rye. The earlier emergence of Aroostook rye may have explained its greater weed suppression than Wheeler, whereas the rye/hairy vetch mixture was intermediate between the two rye cultivars. Delaying cover-crop termination reduced weed density, especially for early- and late-emerging summer annual weeds in 2006. Yellow nutsedge was not influenced by cover-crop type or the timing of cover-crop management. We found that the degree of synchrony between weed species emergence and accumulated cover-crop biomass played an important role in defining the extent of weed suppression.
Nomenclature: Cereal rye, Secale cereale L.; hairy vetch, Vicia villosa Roth; yellow nutsedge, Cyperus esculentus L.