Media contacts: Dr. David Danehower, associate professor of crop science, 919-515-3567 or email@example.com ; Dr. Paul Murphy, 919-513-0000 or firstname.lastname@example.org; Dr. Jim Burton, associate professor of horticultural science, 919-515-1211 or email@example.com
NC State University plant scientists seek weed-killing crop
For the average homeowner, weeds are a nuisance. For a farmer, they can bring an entire season of maddening frustration as they crowd out good quality crops.
North Carolina State University scientists will use a $121,824 grant to attempt to help farmers in their annual battle against weeds by improving a process called allelopathy to breed a more potent weed killer. The grant is being made available by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service through the Southern Regional Integrated Pest Management Grants competition.
A research team made up of Dr. David Danehower, associate professor of crop science; Dr. Paul Murphy, professor of crops science and a plant breeder; and Dr. Jim Burton, associate professor of horticultural science; is planning to breed a genetically improved allelopathic rye to use as a cover crop. All three scientists are faculty members in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NC State.
Typically farmers use herbicides or cover crops or a combination of the two to control weeds. With an increasing number of weeds emerging that can live through a shower of herbicides and a desire to develop less costly and more environmentally friendly ways to control weeds, cover crops are becoming a more popular weed control method.
Cover crops are typically grown between periods of regular crop production and are often not harvested. Cover crops can play a role in controlling soil erosion, and improve soil structure by adding organic matter. Legume cover crops add nitrogen, a nutrient, to the soil, which can then be used by other crops.
Cover crops such as barley, wheat, rye and other grains are often effective at controlling weeds. This control is due to two factors: competition from the cover crop for nutrients, light, and water and allelopathy, a process in which plant mulch releases natural compounds toxic to other plants. Fall-planted cover crops such as rye also have the added benefit of holding soil in place during the winter months. However, current cover crop varieties don't completely manage weeds, leaving the farmer no choice but to supplement with herbicides.
By breeding rye varieties that have stronger allelopathic qualities, the NC State University research team hopes to develop new rye cultivars that promise more consistent weed control. This research continues studies of rye allelopathy and weed control at NC State that span over 20 years of work in the Department of Crop Science.
If successful, enhanced allelopathic rye cover crops should provide southern farmers with an environmentally friendly tool for weed control. Such tools would be especially beneficial for farmers interested in organic crop production, where weed control is a major problem.
Using plants produced by crossing a widely used rye cultivar with rye plants collected from throughout the world, the NC State researchers will test straw mulches made from those plants against three types of weeds: ryegrass (a common weedy grass unrelated to grain rye), goosegrass and pigweed. This field test will give the team an idea of the weed suppressing potential of the tested plants.
In addition, by germinating and growing the same weeds in Petri dishes on paper soaked in an extract of each rye mulch, Danehower can determine how well the seeds would germinate and grow under more controlled conditions. A final assay will analyze these extracts and actually measure the chemicals that researchers believe are the allelopathic agents in rye.
Funding for this portion of the project will last into 2008. Within that time, the NC State researchers may be able to identify seed that could be released as an enhanced allelopathic cover crop.
The Regional Integrated Pest Management Grants competition for the southern region is managed by the Southern Region Integrated Pest Management Center, which is located in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at NC State. For a copy of this grant proposal or for other funded proposals, see http://www.sripmc.org/projects/ListRIPM.cfm
- Rosemary Hallberg, 919-513-8182 or firstname.lastname@example.org -
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