Weeds remain the foremost production challenge for organic small grain farmers in the northeastern United States. Instead of crops sown in narrow, single-line rows, band sowing offers a more uniform spatial arrangement of the crop, maximizing interspecific while reducing intraspecific competition. Weeds in the inter-band zone are controlled by cultivating with aggressive sweeps; tine harrowing can target weeds in both intra- and inter-band zones. Field experiments in Maine and Vermont in 2016 and 2017 evaluated band sowing for improved weed control, crop yield, and grain quality in organic spring barley (Hordeum vulgare L. ‘Newdale'). Specifically, we compared: (1) the standard practice of sowing 16.5-cm rows at a target crop density of 325 plants m–2, (2) narrow-row sowing with increased crop density, (3) wide-row sowing with interrow hoeing, and (4) band sowing both with and (5) without inter-band hoeing. Mustard (Sinapis alba L. ‘Ida Gold') was planted throughout the experiment as a surrogate weed. Compared with the standard practice, band sowing with hoeing reduced surrogate weed density on average by 45% across site-years. However, effects on weed biomass and yield were inconsistent, perhaps due to suboptimal timing of hoeing and adverse weather conditions. In 1 out of 4 site-years, band sowing with hoeing reduced surrogate weed biomass by 67% and increased crop yield compared with the standard treatment. Results also indicate that band sowing with hoeing may improve 1,000-kernel weight and plump kernel grain-quality parameters.
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Vol. 68 • No. 3