Living Mulch - Management


Because they compete with the main crop, living mulches may eventually need to be mechanically or chemically killed.

It is important to judiciously select the appropriate herbicide rate for burning down a living mulch. In 1989, Echtenkamp and Moomaw found that herbicide rates were inadequate to suppress all the living mulches. Therefore, the mulches competed with the main crop for resources. In some cases, the clover could not be killed at the first herbicide application, so a second application was needed. For another treatment, rates that were so high that they caused the cover crop to be killed too rapidly, so that broadleaf weeds invaded the corn. This study suggested that the timing and dosage of herbicide should be carefully considered.

Living mulches were tested in a no-till corn-production systems with two methods for establishing grass and legume living mulches (grass and legume) between corn rows. In 1985, there was no difference between drilling and broadcasting seeds by hand in that study. However in 1986, drilling resulted in higher populations (97 plants m-2) than broadcasting (64 plants m-2), likely because of precipitation levels. Precipitation should be considered because farmers have no control over it.

Beard (1973) recommended chewing fescue (red fescue) (Festuca rubra var "commutata" var "shadow FESRU") as a good living mulch because it adapts to the shady conditions under corn and soybean. This grass is also well adapted to dry and poor soils.

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