(164) The Influence of Mulch Applications on Vegetation Dynamics in Organically Managed Highbush Blueberry

in HortScience

Within-row weed management of highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum L.) is reliant upon herbicide applications. However, in organic production, herbicides are typically not permitted and alternative methods must be used. The impact of thick (25-cm) mulch applications on weed pressure in an organic production system was initiated at a commercial operation in Nova Scotia, Canada, during 2005. A split-plot experimental design was used with five blocks (replications), six treatments, and five plants per split plot (cv. Duke). The whole-plot factor consisted of mulch/fertility treatments and included: i) control (no amendment); ii) ammonium sulphate fertilizer (30 kg·ha-1 N); iii) pelletized poultry manure (60 kg·ha-1 N); iv) pine needles (80 t·ha-1); v) horse manure and sawdust compost (550 t·ha-1); and vi) seafood waste compost (360 t·ha-1). The split-plot factor consisted of level of hand weeding (–/+). Weed control was assessed by sampling percent ground cover and weed shoot biomass in three 0.25-m2 quadrats in nonweeded subplots. Blueberry leaf N content, plant canopy volume, and berry yield (fresh weight and number) were recorded. The manure/sawdust compost and pine needle treatments had the lowest weed biomass and percent ground cover values, thereby providing the best weed control. Weed shoot biomass, blueberry leaf N, plant canopy volume, and berry yield were greatest in the seafood waste compost treatment. Results from this preliminary study indicate the potential of using these groundcover treatments to improve organic cultural management practices.

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