Purdue University Graduate School
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Evaluation of Weed Suppression and Termination Timings of Cereal Rye (Secale cereale L.) and Canola (Brassica napus L.) as Winter Cover Crops in Indiana

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posted on 2019-05-14, 19:34 authored by Stephanie A DeSiminiStephanie A DeSimini

It is estimated that in the United States, agronomic weeds are responsible for about 50% of crop yield loss, costing nearly $27 billion each year. As interest in cover crops across the Midwest increases, so does the need to understand when to terminate cover crops for maximum weed control while still maintaining crop yield. Field experiments were conducted in 2017 and 2018 in Indiana to evaluate the effect of cover crop termination timings on weed control, and corn and soybean yield. Cereal rye (Secale cereale L.) and canola (Brassica napus L.) were subjected to early- or late- termination utilizing glyphosate-, saflufenacil- or glufosinate-based burndown herbicide programs. In corn, cereal rye and canola reduced early season weed biomass by 58 to 67% compared to fallow (no cover crop) plots. Cereal rye and canola reduced horseweed (Erigeron canadensis L.) and giant ragweed (Ambrosia trifida L.) emergence by 42 to 50% compared to fallow plots. Early- and late- terminated cereal rye reduced corn yields by 55 to 67% (5,173 to 7,116 kg ha-1) compared to canola or fallow plots. In soybean, cereal rye and canola reduced early season weed biomass by 73 to 88% compared to fallow plots. Cereal rye and canola reduced horseweed emergence in 2017 and 2018 by 16 to 67 % compared to fallow plots. In 2017, both cover crop and termination timing influenced giant ragweed emergence. Early- and late- terminated cover crop plots reduced giant ragweed emergence by 50 to 76% compared to fallow plots. In 2018, cover crop termination timing influenced soybean yield. Late-terminated plots reduced yields by 48% compared to early-terminated plots. Results from this study suggest that cereal rye and canola planted at these rates can be effective for weed suppression prior to corn and soybeans, however, yield loss in both corn and soybean is expected.

Reports from Indiana in 2015 suggested that growers planting canola as a cover crop were experiencing difficulties when terminating with glyphosate prior to corn and soybean production. This suggests the utilization of inadequate herbicide programs, or perhaps a seed contamination event containing glyphosate resistant canola. Field experiments were conducted in 2016 and 2017 to determine the most effective herbicide treatment for terminating glyphosate resistant canola in Indiana, and to quantify how these herbicide programs influence corn yield. Canola was planted in early September and herbicide treatments were applied in the spring three weeks before corn planting. Visual ratings of control and above-ground biomass reduction were collected 21 days after treatment (DAT). The highest control of canola occurred following the application of paraquat + saflufenacil + 2,4-D or metribuzin, resulting in 88 to 94% control. These control ratings are supported by applications with paraquat + saflufenacil + 2,4-D or metribuzin resulting in 88 to 97% biomass reduction. Auxin herbicides alone provided very poor control, less than 41% at both locations. In general, saflufenacil-containing herbicide treatments provided the highest control of canola compared to mesotrione or atrazine. Herbicide treatments had no effect on corn grain yield.


Degree Type

  • Master of Science


  • Botany and Plant Pathology

Campus location

  • West Lafayette

Advisor/Supervisor/Committee Chair

Dr. William G. Johnson

Additional Committee Member 2

Dr. Kevin D. Gibson

Additional Committee Member 3

Dr. Shalamar D. Armstrong