transitioning fescue to vegetable row crops organically

Asked October 23, 2014, 11:57 AM EDT

Were looking for effective organic sprays or mechanical methods to out compete a well established three year old fescue crop where we would like to plant vegetables and a windbreak. Its a very healthy stand planted by previous farmer. Can you recommend practices or other farmers with similar situ? Were considering tilling and harrowing, and then seeding a dense cover crop. Round up has been recommended but were about to begin transition to certified organic and were looking for ideas on methods or inputs compliant with organics. Thanks

Oregon

1 Response

The main question would be when the organic certification period starts. It takes 3 years to certify. When was the last 'non-organic' product applied to the field? If it was recently (within 6 months), I would suggest Roundup as the first treatment. It will save you untold trouble. Granted, Fescue is not easy to kill with RoundUp, but if you can get on the field now and apply a high rate (3 gts/A), you will kill the crowns of Fescue and they will begin to deteriorate over the winter, and this will save you a lot of trouble down the road.

If Roundup is not an option, you might consider mowing it as soon as you can in the spring and as low to the ground as possible, then using a mold board plow so that the crowns are buried. Then follow that with a disk as soon as you start seeing green.

What crops will you be transitioning to in after organic certification? There are a number of cover crops that could be planted in the spring, early and late summer that would really clean up the field. I would think a vigorous spring cereal, early summer buckwheat, or a late summer sudan grass would really suppress emerging fescue seedlings and other weeds. the main issue here is not letting these cover crops go to seed or you will have a whole nother set of weeds.

Another possibility that I have never seen tried is to notill cereal rye directly into the fescue in the fall. Probably too late for that this year. You may have to modify the drill somewhat so that drill does not have to contend with the fescue rows. A good stand of cereal rye might provide sufficient competition to out compete the fescue in the spring. If soil nitrogen is in short supply this will probably not work.

Let me know if i can be of more assistance.