Weed ecology and nonchemical management under strip-tillage: Implications for northern U.S. vegetable cropping systems

Daniel C. Brainard, R. Edward Peachey, Erin R. Haramoto, John M. Luna, Anusuya Rangarajan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Scopus citations


In northern U.S. vegetable cropping systems, attempts at no-till (NT) production have generally failed because of poor crop establishment and delayed crop maturity. Strip tillage (ST) minimizes these problems by targeting tillage to the zone where crops are planted while maintaining untilled zones between crop rows, which foster improvements in soil quality. ST has been shown to maintain crop yields while reducing energy use and protecting soils in vegetable crops, including sweet corn, winter squash, snap bean, carrot, and cole crops. Despite potential benefits of ST, weed management remains an important obstacle to widespread adoption. Increased adoption of ST in cropping systems for which effective, low-cost herbicides are either limited (e.g., most vegetable crops) or prohibited (e.g., organic systems) will require integration of multiple cultural, biological, and mechanical approaches targeting weak points in weed life cycles. Weed population dynamics under ST are more complex than under either full-width, conventional tillage (CT) or NT because weed propagules-as well as factors influencing them-can move readily between zones. For example, the untilled zone in ST may provide a refuge for seed predators or a source of slowly mineralized nitrogen, which affects weed seed mortality and germination in the tilled zone. Greater understanding of such interzonal interactions may suggest manipulations to selectively suppress weeds while promoting crop growth in ST systems. Previous studies and recent experiences in ST vegetable cropping systems suggest a need to develop weed management strategies that target distinct zones while balancing crop and soil management tradeoffs. For example, in untilled zones, optimal management may consist of weed-suppressive cover crop mulching, combined with nitrogen exclusion and high-residue cultivation as needed. In contrast, weed management in the tilled zone may benefit from innovations in precision cultivation and flame-weeding technologies. These short-term strategies will benefit from longer-term approaches, including tillage-rotation, crop rotation, and cover cropping strategies, aimed at preventing seed production, promoting seed predation and decay, and preventing buildup of problematic perennial weeds. However, a concerted research effort focused on understanding weed populations as well as testing and refining integrated weed management strategies will be necessary before ST is likely to be widely adopted in vegetable cropping systems without increased reliance on herbicides. Nomenclature: Carrot, Daucus carota L.; cole crops, Brassica spp.; snap bean, Phaseolus vulgaris L.; sweet corn, Zea mays L.; winter squash, Cucurbita moschata Duchesne ex Poir.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)218-230
Number of pages13
JournalWeed Technology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2013


  • Tillage
  • vegetable crops
  • weed control

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agronomy and Crop Science
  • Plant Science


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