Interseeded cover crops have the potential to maintain and improve soil quality, reduce the incidence of insect pests, and suppress weeds in vegetable production systems. However, the successful use of interseeded cover crops has been limited by their tendency to either inadequately suppress weeds or suppress both weeds and the crop. We hypothesized that in irrigated broccoli production, winter rye could suppress annual weeds through rapid emergence and shading, without adversely affecting the taller transplanted broccoli crop. In field experiments conducted in New York from 1999–2001, broccoli was cultivated at 0, 10, or 10 and 20 d after broccoli transplanting (DAT), with or without rye at the final cultivation. Rye interseeded at 0 DAT suppressed weeds and improved yields relative to unweeded controls but resulted in broccoli yield losses relative to weed-free controls in 2 of 3 years. Rye seeded at either 10 or 20 DAT did not reduce broccoli yields but had little effect on weeds for a given level of cultivation and resulted in Powell amaranth seed production of up to 28,000 seeds m−2. Rye interseeded at 0 DAT reduced light availability to weeds in 2000 but not in 2001 when Powell amaranth avoided shading from rye through rapid emergence and vertical growth. In greenhouse pot experiments, low temperatures for 7 d after seeding delayed the emergence of Powell amaranth by 3 d relative to rye and increased the suppression of Powell amaranth by rye from 61 to 85%. Our results suggest that winter rye may be more successfully integrated into broccoli production (1) when sown at higher densities, (2) in locations or seasons (e.g., spring) with lower initial temperatures, and (3) in combination with other weed management tools.
Nomenclature: Powell amaranth = green pigweed, Amaranthus powellii S. Wats. AMAPO; broccoli, Brassica oleracea L. var. italica PLENCK ‘marathon’; winter rye, Secale cereale L.