Increasing crop density is a cultural weed management practice that can compliment the use of cover crops for weed suppression. In this research, we created a range of cover crop biomass and soybean densities to assess their weed-suppressive ability alone and in combination. The experiment was conducted in 2008 and 2009 in Maryland and Pennsylvania using five levels of cereal rye residue, representing 0, 0.5, 1.0, 1.5, and 2.0 times the ambient level, and five soybean densities ranging from 0 to 74 seeds m−2. Weed biomass decreased with increasing rye residue and weeds were completely suppressed at levels above 1,500 g m−2. Weed biomass also decreased with increasing soybean density in 2 of 4 site–years. We evaluated weed suppression by fitting an exponential decay model of weed biomass as a function of rye biomass and a hyperbolic model of weed biomass as a function of soybean density at each of the five tactic levels. We multiplied these individual tactic models and included an interaction term to test for tactic interactions. In two of the four site-years, the combination of these tactics produced a synergistic interaction that resulted in greater weed suppression than would be predicted by the efficacy of each tactic alone. Our results indicate that increasing soybean planting rate can compensate for lower cereal rye biomass levels when these tactics are combined.
Nomenclature: Cereal rye, Secale cereale L.; soybean, Glycine max (L.) Merr