Location: Appalachian Fruit Research Laboratory
Title: Weed suppression by grasses for orchard floor management Authors
Submitted to: Annual Cumberland Shenandoah Fruit Workers Conference
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: December 29, 2009
Publication Date: March 23, 2010
Citation: Tworkoski, T., Glenn, D.M. 2010. Weed suppression by grasses for orchard floor management. Annual Cumberland Shenandoah Fruit Workers Conference. Technical Abstract: Fruit trees in orchards of the mid-Atlantic region are often planted in vegetation-free rows alternating with grass travel alleys. The tree rows can be maintained vegetation-free by herbicides or tillage but soil degradation or tree injury can result from these practices. Grasses that suppress weeds but minimally compete with fruit trees may be an alternative to herbicide and tillage for tree rows. This research was conducted in the greenhouse and field to determine grasses that suppress weeds without competing with fruit trees. Five grasses (rough stalk bluegrass, Poa trivialis; Chewings red fescue, Festuca rubra; creeping red fescue, Festuca rubra; Fawn tall fescue, Festuca arundinaceae; and perennial ryegrass, Lolium perenne) were tested. In pot trials using different seeding rates in the greenhouse creeping red fescue competed most effectively while rough stalk bluegrass competed least effectively with three weeds (dame's rocket, Hesperis matronalis; cornflower, Centaurea cyanus; and Chicory, Cichorium intybus). However, as grass seeding rates decreased competitiveness with weeds was similar between Chewings red fescue, creeping red fescue, Fawn tall fescue, and perennial ryegrass. Similar results were obtained over a 3-year field experiment; rough stalk bluegrass competed least effectively with weeds but the other four grasses provided similar weed suppression – generally providing as much weed suppression as traditional herbicides. None of the candidate grasses significantly reduced yields of 10-year-old apple (Malus xdomestica Borkh.) and peach (Prunus persica L. (Batch) trees. Grass and mowing warrants further study as part of an orchard floor management system.