Ornamental jack-o-lantern–type pumpkins are a widely grown specialty crop that will generally produce similar yields between no-till (NT) and conventional till (CT) production systems (Harrelson et al., 2007; O’Rourke and Petersen, 2016; Walters, 2016; Walters and Young, 2010). In recent years, NT practices have become more prominent in Midwest pumpkin production systems as a result of growers having gained more understanding of the economic and ecological benefits associated with this type of production system (Walters, 2016, 2019). Moreover, in recent years, pumpkin growers have become even more interested in NT production for other reasons, including cleaner fruit resulting from residing on organic mulch residues and easier access to fields for both equipment and customers during times of abundant rainfall.
Although there is high interest in using NT production practices for pumpkins, the implementation of this production system by commercial pumpkin growers has been somewhat limited because of the lack of effective weed control options (Walters, 2011; Walters et al., 2008). Weed management is a critical component of pumpkin production systems to maintain high productivity (Galloway and Weston, 1996; O’Rourke and Petersen, 2016; Rapp et al., 2004). Weeds often become the primary problem in NT production systems because tillage is often used in CT systems to reduce weed populations that preemergence (PRE) herbicides fail to control. Although early-season weed suppression is increased by high cover crop residue mulches that are often used along with PRE herbicides in NT systems, full-season control of broadleaf weeds is particularly difficult to achieve in NT pumpkin systems because of limited herbicide options, and the lack of insufficient postemergence (POST) herbicides for use in pumpkins creates significant weed management problems when PRE herbicides lose their effectiveness (Walters, 2011, 2016, 2019).
Although many cucurbit crops, such as pumpkins, are well known to suppress weed growth after they vine out over the soil surface, many weeds will outgrow these crops rapidly due to their C4 metabolism (such as Amaranthus spp.) and provide significant competition for light, nutrients, and moisture (Walters, 2019). Although broadleaf weed control is a major issue in NT pumpkin production, halosulfuron is the only labeled POST herbicide for use in Midwest pumpkins to control certain broadleaf weeds and sedges (Egel et al., 2020). In addition, although any method providing early-season weed control typically provides a high economic return on investment (EROI), the value of herbicide investment in pumpkins is often overlooked by some growers. Therefore, a field experiment in NT pumpkin production was conducted to determine the influence of herbicide products and combinations, labeled specifically for use in pumpkins, on weed control, pumpkin growth and yield, and EROI.
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