Organic crops are required to be grown in rotations,asdemonstrated by the corn-soybean-oat-alfalfa rotation,shown at the ISU Neely-Kinyon Farm.
under any remaining rye plant residues to avoidcompetition with the germinating crop.There is a strong correlation between biomass,tillering (multiple stems), and weed competitive-ness. Barley, for example, has a more extensivetillering system and is more competitive withweeds than wheat. Because small grains also areplanted in narrower rows, these crops are morecompetitive with weeds than corn or soybeans.Many organic farmers opt to fallow a field to a ryefor an entire season if weeds have presented apersistent problem in the past.Maintaining soil fertility through crop rotations,cover crops, intercrops, and biologically-basedfertilizers will enhance the competitiveness of thecrop plant and inhibit weed growth. Reportsindicate that humic and fulvic acids in compost maymitigate weed seed germination. Small-seededweeds also may be more susceptible to pathogensassociated with high organic matter in compost.Compost placed close to the crop plant reduces theamount of nutrients available to weeds betweencrop rows. Mulch also is effective in suppressingweed establishment.
K . D E L A T E
Ecological Weed Managemnet
Most organic farmers relyon multiple tactics for theirweed management. Eco-logical weed managementpromotes weed suppres-sion, rather than weedelimination, by enhancingcrop competition and phy-totoxic effects on weeds.Specific methods includethe following:
Crop rotations are thefoundation of organicfarming. Organic certifica-tion requires that a smallgrain and/or legume beplanted after row crops tomaintain soil health andbiologically based pest management. As anexample, if the legume is plowed under as a covercrop in the fifth year, four years of row crops couldbe grown prior to the green manure crop year. Thesame crop cannot be grown in sequential years;thus, soybeans cannot be grown in the same fieldyear after year. The ideal crop preceding soybeansis winter rye. Soybean fields are rotated to a smallgrain (oats, barley, wheat, or rye) or corn.A typical crop rotation in Iowa is corn followedby a winter cover of rye, soybeans, and oats with anunderseeding of alfalfa or red clover in the thirdyear. Rye, with its allelopathic properties, will helpprevent weed establishment. In the spring, rye thatis less than 8" in height can be killed with a fieldcultivator. Taller rye plants should be mowed or cutwith a stalk chopper before cultivating. A secondcultivation or disking may be necessary to turn
Ecological weedmanagementpromotesweed suppression,rather thanweed elimination,by enhancingcrop competition andphytotoxic effectson weeds.