Effects of Dairy Manure and Weed Management on Weed Communities in Corn on Wisconsin Cash-grain Farms

A reason given by cash-grain farmers for not using manure from neighboring livestock operations is that manure may cause greater field weediness. To address this concern, trials were established in corn on 11 cash-grain farms, in which manure from six nearby dairy farms was spread for the first time in at least 10 yr. A split-plot design was used in which manured and nonmanured treatments were established as whole-plots, and split-plot treatments were either with or without the farmer’s regular weed control. In the multisite analysis, weed seedling density at the time of corn emergence was not greater
in the manured vs. nonmanured treatments. At 7 to 8 wk following planting, weed density was not greater in the manured plots. Just before corn canopy closure, weed biomass also did not differ between manured and nonmanured treatments. Although neither weed species richness nor species diversity differed significantly between manured and nonmanured treatments, these measures did have significant environment-by-manure interactions, indicating that weed species distributions responded differently to manure across the different trial environments. However, farmers’ weed control practices were highly successful in both the manured and nonmanured plots. Large portions (280 m2) of all whole plots were visually inspected for introduced weed species after all weed control practices had been completed. The manured
treatments did not differ significantly in the set of species observed, suggesting that manure did not introduce new weed species. Thus, this exploratory study showed that, contrary to some farmers’ concerns, an application of dairy manure neither increased field weediness nor required alterations in the farmers’ weed control programs.

Authors: Amy Cook, Joshua Posner, Jon Baldock

published in Weed Technology 2007 21:389–395