Insufficient weed control is a major constraint to adoption of reduced-tillage practices for organic grain production. Tillage, cover crop management, and crop planting date are factors that influence emergence periodicity and growth potential of important weed species in these systems. We assessed two hairy vetch cover crop management practices, disk-kill and roll-kill, across a range of corn planting dates from early May to late June in three experiments in Beltsville, MD. Patterns of seed dormancy, emergence, and early weed growth were determined for overseeded populations of common ragweed, giant foxtail, and smooth pigweed, three important species in the Mid-Atlantic states that represent early to late emergence. Common ragweed emergence was lowest and dormancy was highest of the three species across all planting dates. Giant foxtail emergence was higher than the other species in roll-killed hairy vetch and included a significant number of seeds that germinated before rolling operations in late June. Smooth pigweed had the highest emergence and lowest dormancy in disk-killed hairy vetch in June. Individual giant foxtail plant weight was higher in roll-killed than disk-killed hairy vetch in 2 of 3 yr, whereas that of smooth pigweed plants was higher in disk-killed than roll-killed vetch in 2 of 3 yr. Giant foxtail was the dominant species in roll-killed hairy vetch (averaged 79% of total weed biomass at corn silking), probably because of early germination and establishment before rolling operations. Smooth pigweed was the dominant species in disk-killed hairy vetch at June planting dates (averaged 77% of total weed biomass), probably because of high growth rates under warm conditions in tilled soil. This research demonstrated that cover crop management practices and the timing of planting operations can shift the dominant species of weed communities in organic farming systems and must be considered in long-term weed management planning.
Nomenclature: Common ragweed, Ambrosia artemisiifolia L. AMBEL; giant foxtail, Setaria faberi Herrm. SETFA; smooth pigweed, Amaranthus hybridus L. AMACH; corn, Zea mays L.; hairy vetch, Vicia villosa Roth.