Submitted to: Proceedings American Society of Horticultural Sciences
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 5/1/2006
Publication Date: 7/1/2006
Citation: Hoagland, Lori; Carpenter-Boggs, Lynne; Granatstein, David; Peryea, Frank; Regannold, John; Smith, Jeffrey. Nitrogen and carbon cycling and partitioning in managed understories of organic apples. Proceedings of the American Society of Horticultural Science, 2006. Interpretive Summary:
Technical Abstract: Organic orchards represent a significant and growing component of Washington state agriculture. Comparison studies have shown organic apple systems can be equally profitable yet more environmentally sustainable than their conventional counterparts. Despite this success, sustainable methods of weed control, fertility, and soil quality stabilization and improvement have remained a challenge. Intensive cultivation is commonly used to control weeds in organic orchards. This can lead to reduced or degraded soil organic matter, structure, water infiltration, aerated pore space, and other soil productivity parameters. In addition, tillage accelerates nutrient cycling and can result in the loss of valuable nutrients from the system. To address the need for sustainable organic methods of weed management, an integrated study of alternative understory management options was established in a newly planted orchard in 2005. Weed control measures included efficient tillage using a Wonder weeder, organically approved herbicide, wood chip mulch, and living cover mulches. Three rates of nitrogen (low, medium, and high) were applied across the Wonder weeder, wood chip, and living cover mulch plots in order to determine ideal N fertility rate. Analyses of total C and N and N-15 in organic fertilizers, soil pools, living cover biomass, and tree leaves are being used to track N and C cycling and partitioning, N-use efficiency, soil quality, and to determine optimal fertility guidelines. Preliminary results indicate intense competition between living mulch understory and orchard trees, and a trade-off may exist between maximizing soil quality and orchard productivity.