Tillage is a foundational management practice in many cropping systems. Although effective at reducing weed populations and preparing a crop seedbed, tillage and cultivation can also dramatically alter weed community composition. We examined the impact of soil tillage timing on weed community structure at four sites across the northeastern United States. Soil was tilled every 2 wk throughout the growing season (late April to late September 2013), and weed seedling density was quantified by species 6 wk after each tillage event. We used a randomized complete block design with four replicates for each tillage-timing treatment; a total of 196 plots were sampled. The timing of tillage was an important factor in shaping weed community composition and structure at all sites. We identified three main periods of tillage timing that resulted in similar communities. Across all sites, total weed density tended to be greatest and weed evenness tended to be lowest when soils were tilled early in the growing season. From the earliest to latest group of timings, total abundance decreased on average from 428±393 to 159±189 plants m-2, and evenness increased from 0.53±0.25 to 0.72±0.20. The effect of tillage timing on weed species richness varied by site. Our results show that tillage timing affects weed community structure, suggesting that farmers can manage weed communities and the potential for weed interference by adjusting the timing of their tillage and cropping practices.
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Vol. 65 • No. 4