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Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems

Suppressing weed growth after wheat harvest with underseeded red clover in organic farming

Randy L. Anderson

USDA-ARS, Brookings, 57006 South Dakota, USA.


Organic producers are seeking alternative tactics for weed control so that they can reduce their need for tillage. In this study, we examined cover crop strategies for suppressing weed growth after harvest of wheat. Three cover crop treatments, red clover (mammoth type), a mixture of oat and dry pea, and a control were compared. Treatments were established in both winter and spring wheat, resulting in six treatments arranged in a randomized complete block design. Red clover was underseeded in wheat by drilling in the spring, and the oat/pea mixture was planted in August. Oat was planted uniformly across all treatments in the following growing season. The red clover treatment effectively suppressed weeds, reducing post-harvest weed biomass, density of volunteer winter wheat, and seed production of downy brome by more than 99% compared with the control. Oat/pea was not effective for weed management, likely because of less fall growth and competition compared with red clover. Underseeding red clover did not affect winter wheat yield, but reduced spring wheat yield by 17%. Oat yield, however, was reduced by volunteer crop plants and downy brome infestations in all treatments. Underseeding clovers in winter wheat may effectively manage weeds and, if they winterkill, can replace the need for tillage to control weeds after wheat harvest.

Keywords: cover crops; cultural tactics; downy brome; no-till; weed biomass.

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