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Best practices for boosting barley yields
Boosting barley and other crop yields depends to a large degree on controlling "the worst weed in western Canada," wild oats, according to an article in a recent issue of the journal Weed Science .
"In field crops, it costs growers millions of dollars in lost yield each year. It also contributes to the annually increasing costs for herbicides," the article said.
The article notes that wild oats has the potential to create even more problems, in that one fifth of western Canadian cropland is now home to wild oat varieties that are resistant to one or more herbicides.
Growers are being encouraged to adopt integrated weed management to address the problem, given the results of a four-year study at four locations in western Canada.
Integrated weed management includes practices, such as diverse crop rotations, an increase in crop seeding rates, and growing competitive varieties of a crop. "Combining several strategies with herbicide applications provides the best weed management," the Weed Science Society article reported.
The study compared fields continuously growing the primary crop, barley, with another treatment that rotated barley with canola and field peas. Normal seeding rates were compared with twice-normal seeding rates, and semidwarf cultivars of barley were mixed with tall varieties. Herbicides were applied at 25, 50, and 100 percent of the recommended rates.
"While any one treatment increased barley yield, the study found that integrated strategies most effectively reduced weed seeds in the soil bank," the Weed Science journal said. "A 40-fold reduction in wild oat seed was found when the optimal, as opposed to suboptimal, cultural practices were combined with a 100 percent rate of herbicide. Reducing the seed bank through these practices could be crucial to maintaining the effectiveness of herbicides as a weed management strategy for the future."
Full text of the article, “Combining Cultural Practices with Herbicides Reduces Wild Oat (Avena fatua) Seed in the Soil Seed Bank and Improves Barley Yield,” Weed Science, Vol. 61, No. 2, April-June 2013, is available at http://www.wssajournals.org/.