“Can Sunnhemp Outgrow Morning Glory?”

I get the most interesting questions on my website.  Some provoke editorial response:

Biological agriculture is a race between crops and weeds.  The farmer’s job is to give his crops an unfair advantage in competition for sunlight.  One way is growing cover crops to smother invasive weeds.  Sunnhemp (Crotalaria juncea) is an effective mulch crop for weed suppression.

Wild Morning Glory (Ipomoea species) is the bane of my existence.  Closely related to sweet potatoes, morning glories thrive in poor soils, are immune to most insects, and grow so rapidly that they overwhelm all surrounding plants.

In Butler County (30 miles north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) morning glories are like intermittent epidemics.  Some years you rarely see a vine.  Other seasons your fields are covered.

I returned from a business trip to find my neighbor’s back-40 strangled by herbicide resistant morning glories.  Vines blanketed the land like Kudzu (Pueraria montana).  He sprayed tankfuls of glyphosate trying to save his soybeans.  All that did was make the weeds mad.   6 weeks later, vengeful vines obliterated his GMO corn.

My neighbor was hitching up his 8-bottom moldboard when I offered to help.  George has a dim view of “organic farming” but he likes spending money even less, so it was not a difficult decision:  Plow everything under or let Eric make a fool of himself.  Hmm. . .

My solution:  60 pounds per acre of rotary seeded Sunnhemp followed by a 30-year-old sickle-bar mower.  Sow-And-Mow eliminated his weed problem.  The Sunnhemp reached 8 feet high in 7 weeks, shading all competing vegetation.

Next, I broadcast 12 pounds per acre of Dutch White Clover (Trifolium repens) into the standing cover crop then mowed the Sunnhemp with a bush hog.

In Autumn I no-till drilled 60 pounds per acre of pelleted Winter Rye (Secale cereale) into the mature clover.  The field required no other work until grain harvest the following summer.

There is a lesson to be learned here:

RULE:     Always seed cover crops at maximum rates for weed control.

RULE:     Do not plow, disk, or harrow — this only encourages weed germination.

RULE:     Keep fields covered with growing crops at all times to kill weed seedlings.

Follow these rules and weeds will NEVER get established in your fields.

This is what Biological Agriculture is all about:  Crop competition keeps weeds controlled without need for mechanical cultivation or chemical herbicides.  Let nature do the heavy lifting.

Related Publications Include:     Managing Weeds as Cover Crops; Trash Farming; Planting Maize with Living Mulches; Living Mulches for Weed Control; and Crops Among the Weeds.

Other Articles of Interest:     Crop Rotation Primer; Weed Seed Meal Fertilizer; Organic Herbicides; Pelleted Seed Primer; and Forage Maize for Soil Improvement.

Would You Like to Know More?     Please visit:  http://www.worldagriculturesolutions.com  — or —  send your questions about biological weed control to:  Eric Koperek, Editor, World Agriculture Solutions, 413 Cedar Drive, Moon Township, Pennsylvania 15108 United States of America  — or —  send an e-mail to:  worldagriculturesolutions@gmail.com

About the Author:     Mr. Koperek is a plant breeder who farms in Pennsylvania during summer and Florida over winter.  (Growing 2 generations yearly speeds development of new crop varieties).



9 thoughts on ““Can Sunnhemp Outgrow Morning Glory?”

  1. Hi. I’m new to farming, so please have patience with me. Did you plow everything under before you rotary seeded the morning glory? Or did you sow into it and then mow? Also, what kind of rotary seeder did you use?
    I would like to do something similar on my new land in NC. Corn was growing there last year, but presently it has been taken over by vines.


  2. TO: Jack Russey
    FROM: Eric Koperek
    SUBJECT: Sow-And-Mow
    DATE: PM 5:13 Thursday 12 July 2018

    (1) Broadcast Sunnhemp (Crotalaria juncea) into standing morning glory vines (Ipomoea species) at 60 pounds per acre. For best results use pelleted seed.

    (2) Immediately mow wild morning glory vines with a Sickle-Bar Mower. Alternatively, kill vines with a Roller-Crimper. Weed mulch covers and protects germinating Sunnhemp.

    (3) If possible, irrigate immediately to speed Sunnhemp germination.

    (4) With irrigation or good rainfall, Sunnhemp will grow 12 inches per week. Sunnhemp will reach 8 feet in approximately 2 months.

    (5) There are equally effective mulch crops that are much less costly: Broadcast Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum) at 72 pounds per acre, or Sudangrass (Sorghum sudanense = Sorghum x drummondii) at 40 pounds per acre. Kill buckwheat immediately it starts flowering then replant the same day.

    (6) Surface seeding (Sow-And-Mow) works best with small-seeded crops. For large seeded crops, it is better to drill seed into the ground with no-till equipment (Sow-And-Go).

    (7) If you do not have a no-till seeder, cut weeds into little pieces with a rotary mower or similar implement. Broadcast seed then immediately cover seed with a rear-tine rototiller set at 2 inch depth. Drive slowly and make only 1 pass across field. Shallow rototilling mimics no-till planting = minimal soil disturbance. RULE: Always mow before rototilling!

    (8) How to Plant Winter Grain: Wait until the Hessian Fly Date for your area. Cut weeds with a rotary mower. Broadcast 50 to 60 pounds of winter wheat seed per acre. For best results use a tall variety. Do not plant semi-dwarf or dwarf grains. Seed Dutch White Clover (Trifolium repens) at 8 pounds per acre along with wheat seed. Cover seed with a rear-tine rototiller set at 2-inch depth. Field requires no care until harvest the following summer. Dutch White Clover is a living mulch that provides 90% weed control (about as good as glyphosate). Expect winter wheat yields of 40 to 50 bushels (2,400 to 3,000 pounds per acre) in temperate climates with 40 or more inches of rainfall, yearly. No cultivation, herbicides, or fertilizer required. There are many other ways to sow winter grain: Sow-And-Mow (use pelleted seed), Sow-And-Go (use no-till planter), or sow into standing Dutch White Clover (use no-till planter). Planting winter grain is a good way for farmers to learn about Biological Agriculture.

    (9) For more information please visit: http://www.worldagriculturesolutions.com — or — send an e-mail to: worldagriculturesolutions@gmail.com.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I think I will use number 7 because of my monetary situation at this time.
        Question: I have access to a front tine rototiller; will a front tine rototiller work as well as a rear tine?


  3. TO: Jack Russey
    FROM: Eric Koperek
    SUBJECT: Front Tine versus Rear Tine Rototillers
    DATE: PM 6:50 Thursday 19 July 2018

    (1) ALL front tine rototillers are JUNK and should be avoided.

    (2) Use ONLY rear tine rototillers for planting winter grains (wheat, barley, and rye).

    (3) Front tine rototillers do not have effective depth control and so cannot be used to mimic no-till planting.

    (4) I would not give a front tine rototiller to someone I did not like.

    (5) You can run a 10 hectare market garden = 25 acre truck farm with nothing other than a lawn mower and a rear tine rototiller. Troybilt and BCS are the most reliable manufacturers.

    ERIC KOPEREK = erickoperek@gmail.com

    end comment

    Liked by 1 person

  4. What do you think about a scythe? 🙂
    I’d like to try what you suggest with a Sickle Bar Mower… only have an acre to scythe… Broadcast seeds… then mow over them with the scythe… ???


    1. TO: Jack Russey
      FROM: Eric Koperek = erickoperek@gmail.com
      SUBJECT: Scythe versus sickle-bar mower
      DATE: PM 7:48 Tuesday 24 July 2018

      (1) Scything 1 acre is practical but a lot of work if you are unused to manual labor or have never swung a scythe. Using a sickle-bar mower is much less work!

      (2) No-Till Agronomy is NOT a new idea. No-till was practiced back in the Middle Ages, mostly as an emergency measure when bad weather prevented plowing or during war when armies stole farmers’ draft animals. The process (called Sow-And-Mow) is simple: Select the weediest field you can find. Ideal fields have dense, broad leaved weeds at least 6 feet high. Broadcast seed into standing weeds. Mow weeds with a scythe or sickle to cover and protect seed. Pray for rain. Expect 60% to 70% of conventional harvest if rains are normal. In a dry year you may not get a crop. Note: This works best with pelleted seed. The coating protects seeds from ants, beetles, birds, mice and other seed-eaters. In Butler County, Pennsylvania (30 miles north of Pittsburgh) Sow-and-Mow yields approximately 24 to 28 bushels (1,440 to 1,680 pounds) of Winter Wheat per acre. For best results use a TALL growing variety of winter cereal (wheal, barley, or rye) and sow with 8 to 12 pounds of Dutch White Clover (Trifolium repens) per acre. This is a real easy way to grow winter grains without spending a lot of money.

      (3) You can also plant winter cereals and Dutch White Clover into standing weeds using a no-till planter. This is called Sow-And-Go. Germination and seedling survival rates are higher because seed is planted underground (rather than on the surface). Yields are the same or better than Sow-And-Mow with good rains or irrigation.

      ERIC KOPEREK = erickoperek@gmail.com

      end comment


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