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Challenges and tradeoffs with using tillage and cultivation for weed management

Overreliance on soil tillage and cultivation in soybean production can degrade soil health. Although often effective at reducing weed competition and associated yield losses, moldboard plowing and interrow cultivation are also very time consuming. Such practices can also leave soil vulnerable to soil erosion from heavy rain events, which have increased in frequency in New York.

Developing management guidelines for organic rotational no-till soybean production

Rolled cover crops can be used as mulch, allowing organic farmers to no-till plant soybean. Replacing inter-row cultivation with mulch in organic soybean can improve soil health and decrease labor and fuel requirements. With careful planning and proper equipment, farmers can integrate organic rotational no-till soybean into their crop rotations to increase the sustainability of their operations.

Key accomplishments, knowledge generated, outreach activities, resources created

  • Yields of organic no-till soybean are comparable to traditional tillage-based organic soybean in most years.
  • The economic optimum planting rate in organic no-till soybean is substantially higher than the recommended planting rate in conventional soybean.
  • Cereal rye can dry out fields during wet years, allowing no-till planting when tilled fields were too wet to access. However, if there is a spring drought, soybean seed placement, emergence, and growth can be poor.
  • Compared to a no cover crop control treatment, rolled cereal rye resulted in improved water infiltration and soil respiration, which is a measure of soil microbial activity.
  • Soybean yields were higher at earlier compared to later planting dates, but early cover termination was less effective and resulted in cover crop seed production.


USDA NIFA Hatch Program (2013-14-425) and the Organic Transitions Program (ORG, 2014-51106-22080)

Project Members

Jeff Liebert, Kiera Crowley, Chris Pelzer, Sandra Wayman, and Matthew Ryan.

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