ALTERNATIVE WEED MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES FOR STRAWBERRIES
Using cover crops as a component of weed management has been successful in many cropping systems, including vegetables, vineyards, orchards and bush fruit plantings (Bellinder, et al., 1991). Proper management can also increase soil organic matter and water infiltration, and reduce erosion, soil compaction, dust and mud (Hogue and Neilson, 1987). Groundcovers also interact with the pest complex in fruit plantings, often reducing levels of harmful nematodes (Haynes, 1980). Certain plant species are known to suppress the growth of weed species, or repel insects, while acting as poor hosts for diseases (Grainge and Ahmed, 1988).
Although groundcovers have obvious benefits for orchards and vineyards, their use in strawberry operations has not been extensively explored. Strawberries are typically grown as annuals or perennials in monoculture, often following a previous crop of strawberries, and with the intensive use of fumigants, herbicides, insecticides, miticides, and fungicides. Not since the 1940s have growers and scientists seriously considered incorporating cover crops into strawberry production systems to lessen pest problems. Wisconsin workers have studied the effects of a permanent sod groundcover between wide strawberry rows (Newenhouse and Dana, 1989), whereas Virginia workers have seeded grain crops between established rows in an attempt to prevent winter injury without mulching (Williams and O'Dell, 1986).
Our approach has been multifaceted, with the objectives of reducing the weed seed bank, reducing germination of weed seeds, and displacing harmful weeds from established plantings, in addition to assessing the effects of alternative systems on soil physical properties and the biotic community.