Integrated Weed Management in Cucurbits

Monday, February 27, 2017

Plywood separators used to partition a grain drill seed box.
In the Fall of 2016, Perennia, in conjunction with local growers and Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, undertook a new on-farm trial that demonstrates the use of mulched cover crops to suppress weeds and promote soil health in cucurbit production.  

Partitions expertly secured with a suitable application of duct tape.
In a previous project (Cover crops and zone tillage for reduced risk weed management in field vegetables in Eastern Canada), Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientists evaluated weed control methods in cucurbits using cover crops and generated recommendations for using certain techniques to manage weeds in squash production. The technique that we are trying in Nova Scotia integrates the use of fall-seeded rye and banded fall-seeded oats.  

Two rows of oats seeded for eight rows of rye, September 30, 2016.
Oat and rye establishment on October 19, 2016.

The oats will winter-kill, leaving a clear narrow band into which squash can be planted.  The surviving rye is left to grow until late spring at which point it is rolled down to serve as a weed-controlling mulch. This technique has been shown to reduce weed pressure and the amount of herbicides needed, as well as increase marketable squash yield. Squash that is grown on the rolled down rye mulch should be cleaner at harvest, have less disease symptoms, and require less cleaning prior to heading to market.
Another added benefit of this system is the organic matter that the cover crops will add to the soil.  This, along with the season-long soil cover provided by the mulch, will contribute to improvements in soil health.  The mulch will protect the soil from erosion and will also preserve soil moisture should we have a repeat of last year's growing conditions!

We intend to hold a field day this summer to demonstrate this technique, stay tuned for more details!!  
Winter-killed oats alternating with fall rye, January 31, 2017.