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Determining optimum plant population densities for three annual green manure crops under weedy and weed-free conditions



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Green manure crops are critical to maintaining soil fertility in organic cropping systems. However, little research has been conducted to address their contribution to weed control. Indianhead black lentil (Lens culinaris Medikus), AC Green Fix chickling vetch (Lathyrus sativus L.), and Trapper field pea (Pisum sativum L.) are legumes developed for use as annual green manure crops in the Northern Great Plains. Currently, no plant population density recommendations exist for these three species when grown as green manure crops under weedy conditions. The objective of this research was to determine the yield-density response of these three species under weedy and weedy-free conditions and to develop plant population density recommendations for use as annual green manure crops. Each species was grown at five plant population densities (10, 24, 64, 160, and 400 plants m-2) with weedy and weed-free treatments. Wild oat (Avena fatua L.) and wild mustard (Brassica kaber (D.C.) L.C. Wheeler) were planted in weedy treatments to supplement the natural weed community. Biomass samples and soil moisture measurements were taken at early bud and full bloom to simulate when these crops would be terminated. Biomass samples from the early bud stage were analysed for total nitrogen content. Green manure biomass production for all species was lower under weedy conditions. Weed biomass in weedy treatments decreased with increasing green manure plant population density for all species. Trapper field pea was the most competitive crop while Indianhead black lentil was the least competitive. Although total plot biomass differed among species and green manure crop density, changes in soil moisture levels were not greatly affected. No significant difference in total nitrogen concentration was found among green manure species. Differences in total nitrogen accumulation occurred because of differences in biomass production. Marginal cost analysis based on green manure seed costs and their nitrogen contribution to the value of subsequent wheat crop yield were used to determine optimum plant population densities. Under weedy conditions field pea and black lentil should be planted at densities of 49-78 and 223-300 plants m-2, respectively. Under weed-free conditions plant population densities for field pea and black lentil could be reduced to 45-60 and 184-223 plants m-2, respectively. No profitable plant population density was determined for chickling vetch when assuming a lower nitrogen contribution under both weedy and weed-free conditions. However, when assuming a higher nitrogen contribution, a profitable plant population density for chickling vetch of 24 plants m-2 was determined under weedy conditions and 32 plants m-2 under weed-free conditions.



black lentil, chickling vetch, field pea, annual green manure crops, optimum plant population density, marginal cost analysis, competition



Master of Science (M.Sc.)


Plant Sciences


Plant Sciences


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