Previous research has shown that strip-tillage (ST) systems conserve soil, reduce production costs, and save time for growers compared with intensive-tillage systems. In contrast to these well-documented benefits, we have limited information on weed community dynamics and management risks in ST corn (Zea mays L.) production systems in the northern Corn Belt. Therefore, we conducted research in 2015 and 2016 to characterize weed community composition, emergence patterns, and aboveground productivity in an ST corn/no-tillage (NT) soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] rotation that was established in 2007 compared with a long-term intensive-tillage chisel-plow (CP) continuous-corn system. Fifteen or more weed species were identified in nontreated quadrats in each cropping system in each year. Common lambsquarters (Chenopodium album L.) was the most abundant weed species across systems and years. Chenopodium album densities were similar between CP and ST corn phases and were approximately 2-fold greater compared with the NT soybean phase. Other abundant weed species occurred at much lower densities than C. album. In each year, cumulative emergence of nontreated weed communities was described best by a logistic function in each cropping system. Maximum weed community emergence was greater in CP corn than ST corn phases in 2015, but did not differ in 2016. In the ST corn phase, most (about 75%) weed community emergence occurred in the in-row (tilled) zone compared with the between-row (nondisturbed) zone. Total late-season weed shoot biomass did not differ between nontreated CP and ST corn phases in either year, with C. album accounting for >85% of total weed biomass in these phases. These results suggest that weed community composition, total emergence, and productivity were similar between CP and ST corn phases after 10 yr. Our findings, coupled with previous research that showed favorable agronomic performance and greater soil conservation associated with the long-term ST corn/NT soybean system, suggest that production risks are no greater than a CP corn system, while processes that underpin ecosystem services are enhanced. These results provide strong evidence to support grower adoption of ST practices as an alternative to intensive tillage.
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Vol. 66 • No. 5