Canada thistle is a perennial spreading weed that is difficult to control in farming systems with reduced reliance upon herbicides for weed management. Experiments were conducted from 2006 to 2008 at Champaign, IL, to evaluate the combined effects of summer annual cover crops and mowing on Canada thistle growth and survival. Whole plot treatments were fallow, buckwheat, sudangrass–cowpea mixture (MIX), and sudangrass. The subplot treatments were mowing frequencies (0 to 2 times). Cover crop and mowing did not interact to suppress Canada thistle. MIX and sudangrass produced more standing biomass, greater regrowth, and more surface mulch following mowing than the buckwheat. A single season with sudangrass or MIX reduced Canada thistle shoot density and mass to less than 20% of the initial values through two growing seasons. Mowing alone only suppressed Canada thistle shoot density and mass on the site with greater initial density. A sudangrass or MIX cover crop alone or combined with mowing suppresses Canada thistle, but intensive management must continue for several years to eliminate patches.
Nomenclature: Canada thistle, Cirsium arvense (L.) Scop.; buckwheat, Fagopyrum esculentum Moench; cowpea, Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp.; sudangrass, Sorghum sudanense (Piper) Stapf.