Weeds present important challenges to both conventional farmers who rely on herbicides and organic farmers who rely on cultivation. Data from field experiments indicate that diversifying crop sequences with additional species can improve weed suppression when either herbicides or cultivation serve as primary control tactics. Here, we report the results of modeling analyses that investigated how cropping system diversification would affect the population dynamics of giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida
L.), an annual dicotyledonous species that is problematic in the central U.S. for both conventional and organic farmers. We found that to prevent an increase in giant ragweed density, the minimum control efficacy needed from herbicides or cultivation used in corn (Zea mays
L.) and soybean (Glycine max
(L.) Merr.) would be 99.0% in a 2-year corn–soybean system, but 91.4% in a 5-year corn–soybean–rye (Secale cereale
L.)–alfalfa (Medicago sativa
L.) system. Thus, the diversified rotation would be better buffered against less-than-perfect weed control during corn and soybean phases. Further modeling analyses indicated that the weed suppression effect associated with greater rotation length was attributable not only to increased crop species richness but also to greater temporal variation in planting dates. A planting interval variation index (PIVI), calculated as the coefficient of variation in months between planting activities, was strongly associated with the weed suppressive ability of the rotations we modeled and may be a useful metric for designing other cropping systems. Overall, our results indicate that diversified rotation systems that include both annual and perennial crops are likely to be valuable for managing problematic weed species.
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