Effect of Compost Extracts on Organic Seed Germination and Reduction of Weed Seed Expression

Organic growers consider weeds their number one problem in crop production. Organic growers whether they grow vegetables, grains, herbs, berries, or native plants are constantly on the lookout for finding new technology that reduce severity of weed problems and yield losses. One method is to assess whether the use of compost extract would lead to weed seed suppression for better crop seed emergence. If proved well, such technology could be adopted right from the start in improving seedling establishment in the greenhouse for crops such as onion, tomato, and pumpkin, or in direct seeding for many crops as well. However, this concept has not be tested or evaluated for weed seeds and crop seeds. In this project, we propose testing the use of compost extracts that vary with chemical and biological components (fungi, bacteria ratios) prepared with five dilutions on organic crop seed gennination and weed seed emergence when compared to water. The idea is to find out whether any of these proposed treatments would favor suppression of weed seed germination without affecting crop seed germination in order to provide a better management practice that can be integrated into organic fanning systems. The proposed project time line is 2-year project, where in the first year we conduct tests on weed and crop seeds under controlled conditions to assess optimal dilutions and compost extract component and in the second year we select the optimal compost extract and apply it after plant sowing in the field at Rodale Institute and three other participating organic growers in P A and MD. We will share our results with organic and conventional growers at workshops and field days at Rodale Institute, via presentations at regional technical and national conferences, articles for RI and OFRF websites, and manuscript. The impact of this project will foster a widespread adoption of this practical technology easily by organic growers in their farming systems.