Treerow vegetation abundance and biodiversity were measured in response to six orchard floor management strategies in organic peach in northern Utah for three growing seasons. A total of 32 weed species were observed in the treerow; the most common were field bindweed, dandelion, perennial grasses (e.g., red fescue and ryegrass), clovers, and prickly lettuce. Weed biomass was two to five times greater in unmanaged (living mulch) than in manipulated treatments. Tillage greatly reduced weeds for approximately one month; however, vegetation rebounded midseason. Tillage selected for species adapted to disturbance, such as common purslane and field bindweed. Straw mulch provided equivalent weed suppression to tillage in the early season. Straw required annual reapplication with material costs, labor, and weed-seed contamination (e.g., volunteer grains and quackgrass) as disadvantages. Plastic fabric mulch reduced weeds the most, but had high initial costs and required seasonal maintenance. Weed biomass declined within seasons and across the three years of the study, likely due to tree canopy shading. Neither birdsfoot trefoil nor a perennial grass mixture planted in the alleyways influenced treerow weeds. Our results demonstrate several viable alternatives to tillage for weed management in treerows of organic peach orchards in the Intermountain West.
Nomenclature: Birdsfoot trefoil, Lotus corniculatus L.; clover, Trifolium; common purslane, Portulaca oleracea L.; dandelion, Taraxacum officinale G.H. Weber ex Wiggers; field bindweed, Convolvulus arvensis L.; red fescue, Festuca rubra L.; perennial ryegrass, Lolium perenne L.; green foxtail, Setaria viridis (L.) Beauv.; prickly lettuce, Lactuca serriola L.; quackgrass, Elymus repens (L.) Gould; peach, Prunus persica L. Batsch.