Living mulches between beds of polyethylene-mulched vegetable crops may suppress weeds and decrease surface and ground water contamination by pesticides. They should be either low growing or amenable to mowing and should withstand traffic. Twelve winter cover crops were planted in north (N.) and north central (N.C.) Florida in Fall 2004: black oats (Avena strigosa cv. Soilsaver), annual ryegrass (Lolium multiflorum cv. Gulf), rye (Secale cereale cv. Wrens Abruzzi), hard fescue (Festuca longifolia cv. Oxford), white clover (Trifolium repens cvs. Dutch white and New Zealand white), berseem clover (T. alexandrinum cv. Bigbee), crimson clover (T. incarnatum cv. Dixie), subterranean clover (T. subterraneum cv. Mt. Barker), arrowleaf clover (T. vesiculosum cv. Yuchi), a barrel medic (Medicago trunculata cv. Parabinga), and a disc × strand medic (M. tornata × M. littoralis cv. Toreador). Black oats, rye, and annual ryegrass established quickly and suppressed winter annual weeds. Canopy development of the other species was poor. Shoot biomass was greater in N. Florida than in N.C. Florida. The highest shoot biomass occurred with black oats. By 8 weeks after planting (WAP) rye and annual ryegrass had similar amounts of biomass, but by 16 WAP the yield of rye was greater. At some harvests, biomass with wheel traffic or mowing was lower than without, but black oats, rye, and ryegrass did not succumb to these treatments. Of the legumes, only crimson clover and `Toreador' medic in N. Florida produced sufficient biomass by 16 WAP to permit a harvest. Black oats, rye, and annual ryegrass appear to be the best living mulch candidates; however, black oats would require more frequent mowing.
The phytotoxicity of aqueous foliar extracts and ground dried residues of sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea L.), cowpea [Vigna unguiculata (L.) Walp. cv. Iron Clay], and velvetbean [Mucuna deeringiana (Bort) Merr.] to crop and weed germination and growth was evaluated to compare the allelopathic potential of the cover crops. By 14 days after treatment (DAT), goosegrass [Eleusine indica (L.) Gaertn.] germination with 5% aqueous extracts of all cover crops (w/v fresh weight basis) was similar and greater than 75% of control. However, with the 10% extracts, goosegrass germination was lowest with cowpea extract, intermediate with velvetbean extract, and highest with sunn hemp extract. Livid amaranth (Amaranthus lividus L.) germination declined to ≈50% with cowpea and sunn hemp extracts and even lower to 22% with velvetbean extract. The suppression of livid amaranth germination was greater with the 10% extracts than the 5% extracts. Bell pepper (Capsicum annuum L.) germination was unaffected by velvetbean extract, inhibited more by the 5% cowpea extract than the 10% extract, and was also sensitive to the 10% sunn hemp extract. All cover crop extracts resulted in an initial delay in tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) germination, but by 14 DAT, inhibition of germination was apparent only with cowpea extract. The phytotoxicity of ground dried residues of the three cover crops on germination, plant height, and dry weight of goosegrass, smooth amaranth (A. hybridus L.), bell pepper, and tomato was evaluated in greenhouse studies. Goosegrass germination was inhibited in a similar manner by residues of the three cover crops to 80% or less of control. Smooth amaranth germination, plant height, and dry biomass were more sensitive to sunn hemp residues than to cowpea and velvetbean residues. Bell pepper germination, plant height, and dry weight were greater than 90% of control except for dry weight with cowpea residue, which was only 78% of control. The greatest effect of cover crop residue on tomato occurred with dry weight, because dry weights with cowpea and sunn hemp were only 76% and 69% of control, respectively, and lower than with velvetbean. There was more evidence of cover crop phytotoxicity with the weed species than with the crop species and cowpea extracts and residue affected all species more consistently than those of sunn hemp and velvetbean.
The effect of living mulches (LM) on weed suppression, crop growth and yield, and soil hydraulic conductivity were evaluated in broccoli in North Central Florida at Citra and in North Florida at Live Oak, using organic production methods. `Florida 401' rye, `Wrens Abruzzi' rye, black oat, and annual ryegrass, were either mowed or left untreated and compared with weedy and weed-free controls. Cover crop biomass was highest with `Florida 401' at both locations, intermediate with black oat and `Wrens Abruzzi', and lowest with ryegrass. The greatest weed infestation occurred with the weedy control. In Citra, ryegrass decreased weed biomass by 21% compared with ≈45% by the other LM with no differences due to mowing. However, at Live Oak, mowed LM and the weedy control had similar amounts of weed biomass; whereas unmowed LM had 30% to 40% less weed biomass than the weedy control. At both locations, broccoli heights were greatest with the weed-free control, intermediate with the cover crops, and lowest with the weedy control. Total above-ground broccoli biomass and marketable weight of broccoli at Live Oak, and number of marketable heads at both locations, were unaffected by the LM. At Citra, total broccoli biomass with LM and the weedy control decreased in a similar manner, so that total broccoli biomass was highest with the weed-free control. Ryegrass and the weedy control suppressed marketable broccoli weight by 24%; however, greater decrease in marketable weight (39% to 43%) occurred with `Florida 401', `Wrens Abruzzi', and black oat. At both locations, mowing of LM had no effect on broccoli growth or yield. There was no difference in saturated hydraulic conductivity among treatments.
Drift from pesticides can kill or damage nontarget organisms. In these studies, the effects of sublethal rates of the herbicide glyphosate applied prebloom, at bloom, and postbloom of the first flower cluster were evaluated in tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.). As rates increased from 1 to 100 g·ha-1, foliar injury and flower and fruit number per plant varied with the stage of development at the time of exposure and the time of evaluation after treatment. Plants treated with 60 and 100 g·ha-1 glyphosate prebloom and at bloom had developed moderate to severe foliar injury by 14 days after treatment, but phytotoxicity to plants treated postbloom was only mild to moderate. Blooms abscised from plants treated with 60 and 100 g·ha-1 glyphosate for several weeks after application and fruit set was reduced. Greatest yield losses occurred following treatment prebloom (just prior to bloom) and at bloom. Plants treated before emergence of flower buds, and more mature plants exposed when first cluster fruit were sizing, yielded better than did those treated just prior to bloom and at bloom. Chemical name used: N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine (glyphosate).
Cucumber (Cucumis sativus L.) growth and yield in response to application of sublethal rates of 2,4-D at several developmental stages were evaluated in field studies during two seasons. In Expt. 1, prebloom applications of 2,4-D amine reduced plant vigor and increased foliar epinasty as rates increased from 0 to 112 g·ha-1. Early and total fruit yields also declined linearly as 2,4-D rates increased; 112 g·ha-1 2,4-D reduced early yield by 25% and total yield by 20%. In Expt. 2, plant vigor declined with increasing rates of 2,4-D applied at all four stages of development from first true leaf to early fruit enlargement; however, response at stage 1 differed with time after application. Epinasty increased with 2,4-D rate when applied at all developmental stages; however the severity of the response varied with time after application for stages 1, 2, and 3, but not for stage 4. Averaged over all developmental stages, vine length, fresh weight, and yield decreased linearly as rates increased. Early and total yields with 112 g·ha-1 were 22% and 19% lower than those of nontreated plants, respectively. Growth inhibition and yield decline, pooled across 2,4-D rates, were greater when exposure occurred at the earlier stages of development. Chemical name used: (2,4-dichlorophenoxy)acetic acid (2,4-D).
Sublethal rates of 2,4-D and dicamba were applied to pepper to evaluate the possible effects of single or multiple exposures to drift from these herbicides. Dicamba induced more foliar injury than did 2,4-D and reduced vigor more as herbicide rates increased. Postbloom applications reduced vigor less than did earlier applications. Epinastic response was affected by stage of development at application and time after treatment. Postbloom applications did not affect yield, but dicamba and 2,4-D applied at earlier stages of development resulted in linear reduction of marketable and total yields as rates increased to 112 g·ha-1. Reductions in plant vigor with increased rates were greater and foliar epinasty was more pronounced with two sequential applications of 2,4-D or dicamba than with single applications. Marketable yields were unaffected by single prebloom applications but declined linearly with two applications. Cull and total yields were not affected by the number of applications. With prebloom and bloom applications of 2,4-D, flower abscission increased and fruit set decreased as rate increased. Chemical names used: 3,6-dichloro-2-methoxybenzoic acid (dicamba); 2,4-dichlorophenoxy)acetic acid (2,4-D).
Glyphosate at sublethal rates was applied prebloom, at-bloom, or postbloom relative to the first flower cluster to tomato (Lycopersicon esculentum Mill.) to determine the effect on foliar concentrations of N, P, K, Ca, and Mg. Glyphosate rates of 0, 1, 6, 10, 60, and 100 g·ha-1 were used to simulate the effects of spray drift. In three studies, plant vigor declined with increased glyphosate rates and younger plants were more sensitive than older plants. Plant height decreased as glyphosate rate increased, but the response differed with time of evaluation and with stage of development. In Expt. 1, N content decreased with increasing rate of glyphosate, regardless of stage of development, but response varied with time of evaluation with prebloom and at-bloom applications. In Expt. 2, prebloom glyphosate applications reduced N content, but applications at-bloom did not. P declined with prebloom and at-bloom glyphosate applications in Expt. 1, but only with prebloom applications in Expt. 2. In Expt. 3, P concentrations generally declined with glyphosate rates ≤10 g·ha-1, but were unchanged or increased with rates of 60 and 100 g·ha-1. Tissue K, Ca, and Mg concentrations were not consistently affected by glyphosate rate and sample times. Although significant changes in foliar concentrations of N, P, K, Ca, and Mg occurred, leaf mineral analysis was not considered to be a reliable method of quantifying sublethal effects of glyphosate in tomato. Mineral deficiency did not occur in response to glyphosate application. Chemical name used: N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine (glyphosate).
Partial budget analyses of five summer fallow treatments in Florida preceding a cash crop of summer squash (Cucurbita pepo) were conducted. The five treatments were sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea), velvet bean (Mucuna deeringiana), cowpea (Vigna unguiculata), sorghum-sudangrass (Sorghum bicolor × S. bicolor var. sudanense), and tillage. Costs were estimated for each summer fallow treatment, including the cost of seed, inoculant, implementation, management, and termination. Benefits were calculated in terms of contributions to the following cash crop of summer squash in the form of biologically fixed nitrogen and reduced weed pressure. Results showed that total production costs were minimized by cover crops, even though implementation costs were higher than for tillage.
Weed management is a major constraint of organic vegetable production and perennial weeds such as purple nutsedge (Cyperus rotundus) are particularly difficult to control. A study was initiated in 2005 to determine how summer fallow techniques impact purple nutsedge population density, tuber number and tuber viability; and to evaluate the impact of the treatments on the yields of two fall crops differing in canopy size and rate of development. Clean fallow treatments accomplished with weekly tillage or weekly flaming were conducted for 12 weeks. Two sets of summer cover crop treatments of sunn hemp (Crotalaria juncea) were established by broadcasting 40 lb of seed per acre and were undercut at 13 weeks after seeding. Cover crop residue was either incorporated before transplanting or retained on the surface as mulch for the fall crops of lettuce and broccoli. Soil solarization was initiated on 2 July and the transparent solarization film was maintained in place until mid-October. A weedy fallow treatment was included as a control, which was tilled before establishing the fall crops. Before the initiation of the summer fallow treatments, no difference in viable tubers or nutsedge shoot density was observed. After fallow, flaming had the highest number of viable tubers, with all other treatments similar to the weedy control. Nutsedge shoot density was suppressed by all fallow treatments to lower levels than with the weedy control, but solarization was the least effective. Leaf-cutting insects eliminated the crops in the sunn hemp mulch treatment within days of being transplanted. Lettuce stands with all other treatments were similar and greater than with the weedy control. Highest broccoli stands were obtained with flaming, solarization, and tillage; but broccoli stand with incorporated sunn hemp was similar to the weedy control. Highest lettuce yields occurred with incorporated sunn hemp, solarization, and weekly tillage. However, lettuce yields with flaming and the weedy control did not differ statistically. Broccoli yields were greatest with flaming, solarization, and tillage. Broccoli development was delayed with the weedy control and incorporated sunn hemp treatments and no significant yield was obtained.
Citrus is one of the most important crops in Florida. During the past decade, increased international competition and urban development, diseases, and more stringent environmental regulations have greatly affected the citrus industry. Citrus growers transitioning to organic production may benefit from premium prices, but they also face many challenges, including development of effective weed management strategies. Cover crops (CC) may constitute an environmentally sound alternative for improved weed management in organic systems. Two field experiments were conducted at Citra in north central Florida from 2002 to 2005, to evaluate the effectiveness of annual and perennial CC to suppress weeds in organic citrus groves. To quantify and compare the effectiveness of CC to suppress weed growth, a new weed suppression assessment tool, the cover crop/weed index (CCWI), was developed using the ratio of biomass accumulation of CC and weeds. Annual summer CC accumulated more biomass in comparison with winter CC. Sunnhemp (Crotalaria juncea L.), hairy indigo (Indigofera hirsuta L.), cowpea (Vigna unguiculata L. Walp.), and alyceclover (Alysicarpus vaginalis L.) all provided excellent weed suppression, which was superior to tillage fallow. Single-species winter CC did not always perform consistently well. Use of winter CC mixtures resulted in more consistent overall CC performance, greater dry matter production, and more effective weed suppression than single species of CC. Initial perennial peanut (PP) growth was slow, and summer planting of PP (Arachis glabrata Benth.) was determined to be the most effective date in terms of weed suppression, which was improved gradually over time, but all planting dates resulted in slow initial growth compared with annual CC. For both PP and annual CC, weed biomass typically was inversely related to CC dry weight accumulation resulting from competition for resources. The CCWI was a suitable tool to quantify CC performance in terms of weed suppression.