We tested the effects of seeding date and weed control during switchgrass establishment in a field experiment that was conducted in central Pennsylvania in 2007 and repeated in 2008. Switchgrass was no-till seeded in early May, late May, and mid-June, and three postemergence weed management treatments were evaluated, including Mow (only a single mowing), Broadleaf (2,4-D dicamba), and Broad Spectrum (2,4-D dicamba atrazine quinclorac). Switchgrass density increased at later seeding dates, except in 2008, when the middle seeding date had the lowest density. In both years, weed biomass in late summer was lowest in the last seeding date of the Broad Spectrum treatment. In contrast, switchgrass biomass in late summer was greatest in the first seeding date of the Broad Spectrum treatment in both years. In the year after establishment (production year), plots were split to test the effects of supplemental weed control, composed of metsulfuron 2,4-D applied in May, on total aboveground yield. Supplemental control in the production year increased total aboveground yield in the Mow treatment only, indicating that effective weed control during the establishment year might reduce the need for weed control in the following year. Although maximum aboveground yield was achieved when switchgrass was seeded in May and herbicides were used, results from our experiment suggest that seeding switchgrass at a relatively high seeding rate in June in our study region and mowing annual weeds to reduce competition and prevent seed production could be an effective strategy if minimizing herbicide use is a priority.
Nomenclature: 2,4-D; atrazine; dicamba; quinclorac; switchgrass, Panicum virgatum L.