In the semiarid northern Great Plains, the adoption of zero tillage improves soil water conservation, allowing for increased crop intensification and diversification. Zero-tillage crop production relies heavily on herbicides for weed management, particularly the herbicide glyphosate, increasing selection pressure for herbicide-resistant weeds. Barley is well adapted to the northern Great Plains, and may be a suitable herbicide-free forage crop in zero-tillage systems. A 2-yr field study was conducted to determine if planting date influenced crop and weed biomass, water use (WU), and water-use efficiency (WUE) of barley and weed seed production in three preplant weed management systems: (1) conventional preplant tillage with a field cultivator (TILL); (2) zero tillage with preemergence glyphosate application (ZTPRE); and (3) zero tillage without preemergence glyphosate (ZT). None of the systems included an in-crop herbicide. Planting dates were mid-April (early), late May (mid), and mid-June (delayed). Early planting of ZT barley resulted in excellent forage yields (7,228 kg/ha), similar to those from TILL and ZTPRE. Early planting resulted in a small accumulation of weed biomass, averaging 76 kg/ha, and no weed seed production regardless of preplant weed management system. Early planting resulted in higher WU than delayed planting, averaging 289 and 221 mm, respectively, across management systems and years. The WUE of crop and total biomass did not differ among preplant weed management systems at harvest from the early planting date. Delayed planting resulted in decreased forage yield with high amounts of weed biomass and seed production, especially in ZT. A pre-emergence glyphosate application was not necessary for early-planted ZT forage barley. Early planting of herbicide-free barley for forage can be an excellent addition to northern Great Plains cropping systems as part of a multitactic approach for improved weed and water management.
Nomenclature: Glyphosate; barley, Hordeum vulgare L