Sustainable strawberry production depends on effective weed and soil management. Alternative weed management strategies are needed because few herbicides are registered for use in matted-row strawberry culture. Soil analyses are often measured in terms of chemical and physical properties alone. Measuring biological indicators of soil quality that are sensitive to changes in the environment can enhance these analyses. The experiment compared the effects of four weed management systems on weed growth, soil quality properties, and strawberry yield, growth, and development. Treatments were killed-cover crop mixture of hairy vetch (Viciavillosa) and cereal rye (Secalecereale); compost + corn gluten meal + straw mulch; conventional herbicide; and methyl bromide soil fumigation. Results indicated that there were no differences in percentage of weed cover or number of strawberry runners between the four weed management treatments in the planting year (July or Aug. 2004). The soil quality parameters, infiltration rate, soil bulk density, earthworm number, and total porosity were similar for all treatments. Plots that received the straw mulch treatment had a soil volumetric water content 20% higher and air-filled porosity that was 26% higher than the average of other treatments. Although treatment plots received similar N, leaf nutrient analysis showed that plants receiving the straw mulch + corn gluten meal treatment had a similar amount of total N when compared to the conventional and methyl bromide treatments, but was 21% higher than the killed-cover crop treatment.
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