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Effect of Intercropping and Cultivar Mixtures on Organic Wheat Production

Jacqueline Claire Pridham and Martin Entz, University of Manitoba

Two primary threats to wheat yield and quality in organic production are weeds and diseases. This study sought to determine the effectiveness of cultivar mixtures and various intercropping mixtures on suppressing weeds and diseases, and increasing/maintaining wheat yield.

The experimental trials were conducted at two locations in 2004 and 2005. The study consisted of two trials, the first being a cultivar mixture trial utilizing Red Fife, Marquis, AC Barrie and BW297. This trial included treatments of all possible combinations of the varieties, as well as sole variety treatments. The second experimental trial examined intercrop mixtures comprised of three representative systems. The first system was wheat and other cereal mixtures, which included wheat and oats, wheat and barley and wheat and spring rye. The second system was wheat and other grain intercrop mixtures and included wheat and flax, wheat and field peas and wheat and oriental mustard. The third system was wheat and cover crops, which included wheat and red clover, wheat and hairy vetch, and wheat and annual ryegrass.

In 2004, the cultivar mixture trial demonstrated a trend of the cultivar mixture treatments yielding more than the sole variety treatments. The intercrop trial showed the wheat and hairy vetch treatment as being the highest wheat yielding intercrop treatment in both trials, with it being not statistically different from the full-rate wheat treatment at Carman (Fisher's LSD test p < 0.05) The total yield (wheat + intercrop yield) allowed the wheat and field pea treatment, the wheat and oats treatment, and the wheat and barley treatment to outyield the wheat monoculture treatments at Carman.

2005 data will also be presented. This study demonstrates the possibility for intercrops to perform comparably and even outyield wheat monocultures, and may provide for an economically profitable and more sustainable alternative to producing wheat monocultures.

Pridham, J.C. and Martin Entz. Effect of Intercropping and Cultivar Mixtures on Organic Wheat Production. Presented at the ASA-CSSA-SSSA International Annual Meetings (November 6-10, 2005), Salt Lake City, UT.

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