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  • Author or Editor: Karen Mitchell x
  • HortScience x
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Soil incorporation of biochar appears to increase plant growth in some environments. However, the effect of biochar on root system architecture (RSA) or on weeds is not well understood. Our objective was to examine the effect of biochar on the growth and RSA of large crabgrass (Digitaria sanguinalis L. Scop.), a common and problematic weed. Plants were grown in rhizoboxes filled with field soil ± either a low-nutrient biochar (LNB) or a high-nutrient biochar (HNB). Rhizoboxes were either filled uniformly with field soil ± biochar (solid) or with + biochar and − biochar-amended field soil so that each occupied half of the rhizobox (split). Large crabgrass biomass and RSA were affected by biochar type in the solid design rhizoboxes and large crabgrass roots proliferated in biochar-amended soil in the split rhizoboxes, regardless of biochar type. This study provides evidence that plant roots can detect and grow toward biochar and suggests that the addition of biochar to soils may increase the ability of large crabgrass to spread vegetatively.

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Eliminating tillage passes is a means to reduce production costs and dust emissions in California's San Joaquin Valley tomato production region. Inserting winter cover crops between summer crops may be a way to add organic matter to the soil and thereby improve soil quality. From 1999, we evaluated conservation tillage (CT) and cover cropping (CC) in a tomato/cotton rotation in Five Points, Calif. During the course of the study, tillage operations were reduced an average of 50% in the CT system relative to the standard tillage (ST) approach. Yields in the CT no cover crop (NO) system matched or exceeded yields in the STNO system in each year. Tomato yields in the CTCC and STCC systems were comparable to the STNO except in the first year, when stand establishment and early season vigor were problems. Weed management and machine harvest efficiency in high surface residue systems are issues requiring additional work in order to make CT adoption more widespread.

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