By Tânia Carvalho Carli
Hello! I’m an international student coming from Brazil. I’m part of a government program that supports undergraduate students to study abroad. Most of the students in the academic mobility program stay one year studying abroad at universities all around the world. Some examples of places that are hosting Brazilian students are the United States, Canada, and Europe. The objective of the program is to provide undergraduate students with an opportunity to gain international academic experience and scientific knowledge that can be applied in Brazil. Knowledge from other countries contributes to Brazil’s development and growth in specific areas, such as agriculture and industry.
For this summer I had the opportunity to work in the Sustainable Cropping System Lab with great people who are conducting very interesting research on organic agriculture. On July 16th I had the opportunity to participate in the Aurora Farm Field Day at Cornell’s Musgrave Research Farm. The Integrated Field Crop, Soil, and Pest Management Program Work Team, Cornell Cooperative Extension, and the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station sponsored this event. The field day is an opportunity for the public to see the new agricultural research at the farm. They can see experiments first-hand and ask questions about sustainable agriculture and crop production. The tour included a visit to the research plots and explanations, for example, about crop production and management of the soil. Some topics presented this year were about production of corn and soybean on organic and non-organic plots, nutrient management and nitrogen application technology, corn breeding for multiple disease resistance and no-till organic cropping system. The last one, the no-till organic cropping system research is a project from our lab.
The no-till organic cropping system is one of our graduate student projects. Jeff Liebert is the graduate student responsible for the study. The project is a trial with winter cereal cover crops and organic no-till soybean. In the no-till system the winter cover crops are rolled to create mulch that covers the soil and reduces weed growth. It is a very useful way to suppress weeds without spraying a chemical (herbicides), which are not permitted in organic production. Cereal rye, triticale, and barley were the winter cover crops used in the plots. The study aims to find out what cover crop species are more efficient at weed suppression. Also, the cover crops were planted at different soybean planting dates. Soybeans were planted at different times in order to compare the effect of planting date on cover crop mulch and soybean yield.
Another topic related to weeds was presented by Professor Toni DiTommaso: herbicide resistance. He said that the term “superweeds” is inappropriate to refer to herbicide resistant weeds. This is because “superweeds” can be misinterpreted as a type of plant that is very strong and survives in rough environments instead of a plant that is resistance to herbicides. He suggested that the term “superweeds” should not be used as a synonym for herbicide-resistant weeds. Herbicide resistance occurs when weeds develop a tolerance and are no longer susceptible to the herbicide. Resistance is usually caused by a misuse of herbicides. For example, when the same herbicide is used extensively and constantly for long period of time it increases selection pressure on the weed population to become resistant. Dr. DiTommaso also emphasized the importance of early detection and control to prevent problematic weeds from spreading from one place to another. He said that farmers in New York State should be careful and watch out for introductions of resistant weeds from Midwest. One Midwest weed that starting to be found around New York State is waterhemp. Herbicide resistant waterhemp is a huge problem in Midwest. Some solutions to herbicide resistant weeds are the appropriate use of herbicides, early identification of weeds that are not from New York, and the use of cover crops and IPM (integrated pest management).
The field day provided a great opportunity for professors and graduate students to share information with farmers. Developing sustainable practices that are profitable is one of the main goals of the researchers at the field day. Cornell intends to increase the adoption of sustainable management practices by working with farmers and using science to provide solutions to problems in agriculture.