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Switchgrass and Miscanthus - Ontario Projects/KTT D · PDF file Farmers, gardeners and landscapers are advised before changing the management of their gardens, horticultural crops

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  • Switchgrass and Miscanthus ∙ Sustainable Mulch

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    Acknowledgements

    This document was developed with the support of:

    OMAFRA-U of G Knowledge Translation & Transfer Program

    Ontario Agri-Food Technologies

    Ontario Biomass Producers Co-operative Inc.

    June 2018

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    The Ontario Biomass Producers Co-op would like to thank the document

    developer for the effort to create this document.

    Roger Samson

    REAP-Canada

    The Ontario Biomass Producers Co-op would also like to acknowledge the

    efforts of the following individual contributors, in alphabetical order:

    Michael Bleho McGill University

    Jake DeBruyn Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs

    Bill Deen University of Guelph

    Urs Eggimann Eggimann Farms

    Calvin Ernst Ernst Conservation Seeds

    Huguette Martel Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec

    Louise Moritsugu Free-lance editor

    Nadia Nadeau Ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation du Québec

    Don Nott Switch Energy Corp

    David Smith Great Lakes Miscanthus

    Mahendra Thimmanagari Ontario Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Rural Affairs

    James Tost Roundtable Creative Group Inc

    David Wees McGill University

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    Table of Contents

    Acknowledgements ................................................................................................................... ii….

    Table of Contents ..................................................................................................................... iv….

    Table of Figures ........................................................................................................................ vi….

    Introduction ............................................................................................................................... 1….

    How Mulches Improve Plant Growth..................................................................................... 3….

    Temperature Effects ..................................................................................................................... 3….

    Soil Water Availability ................................................................................................................. 5….

    Warm-Season Grass Mulches and Weed Control ................................................................ 7….

    Manipulation of Soil Nutrients for Weed Control ............................................................. 9….

    Impact on Diseases ................................................................................................................ 12….

    Mulch as a Host of Disease ....................................................................................................... 12….

    Mulch Creating Excessively Humid Environments ......................................................... 12….

    Soil Oxygen Depletion ................................................................................................................ 14….

    Mulch Effects on Soils ........................................................................................................... 15….

    Soil Nutrients ................................................................................................................................. 15….

    Soil Formation Under Warm-Season Grass Mulch ......................................................... 16….

    Microbial Biomass ....................................................................................................................... 16….

    Earthworms ................................................................................................................................... 18….

    Phytoliths ........................................................................................................................................ 18….

    Guidelines for Using Mulch Successfully ............................................................................ 20….

    Mulch Application ........................................................................................................................ 21….

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    Best Plant Applications for Warm Season Grass Mulch ................................................ 23….

    How to Use Warm Season Grass Mulch ............................................................................ 24….

    Strawberries .................................................................................................................................. 24….

    Mulch Use in Ornamental Flower Gardens ........................................................................ 28….

    Summary ................................................................................................................................. 34….

    Appendix ............................................................................................................................... 35….

    Disclaimer:

    PLEASE NOTE THIS PUBLICATION IS INTENDED AS A GUIDE ONLY.

    Reference to any specific process, product or service does not constitute an implied or expressed recommendation or endorsement of it. Neither OBPC or the author make any warranties or representations as to the usefulness of any methods, product, or service or other information contained, or referred to in this Manual. The user assumes all risk, whether recommendations are followed or not. Farmers, gardeners and landscapers are advised before changing the management of their gardens, horticultural crops or certified organic farming operation they consult an appropriate horticultural or organic farming specialist familiar with their specific plant production application.

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    Table of Figures

    Figure 1. Miscanthus use on ginseng beds (S. Szucs) ................................................................ 2

    Figure 2. Switchgrass mulch in hot sun (D. Nott) ....................................................................... 4

    Figure 3. Wood residue as an ornamental mulch (M. Thimmanagari) .............................. 8

    Figure 4. Switchgrass mulch replacing coloured wood mulch (D. Nott) ........................ 11

    Figure 5. Pellet mulch as an ornamental mulch (M. Thimmanagari) .............................. 13

    Figure 6. Fungi decomposing warm season grass mulch (R. Samson) ........................... 17

    Figure 7. A 2.5 cm deep cross-layered switchgrass mulch (R. Samson) ........................ 22

    Figure 8. Fall pigmentation of big bluestem and switchgrass (R. Samson) ................... 23

    Figure 9. Switchgrass as a winter mulch for strawberries (N. Nadeau) ......................... 25

    Figure 10. Strawberry field with outstanding weed control (N. Nadeau) ..................... 26

    Figure 11. Slow to decay switchgrass mulch in strawberries (H. Martel) ..................... 28

    Figure 12. Residual mulch in a spring prairie garden (R. Samson) ................................ .29

    Figure 13. A fine chop vs long chop mulch in a garden (R. Samson) ................................ 30

    Figure 14. Fine chopped mulch in a garden in late May (R. Samson) .............................. 31

    Figure 15. Root systems of prairie plants (H. Natura) ........................................................ 32

    Figure 16. Well established prairie garden with mulch (R. Samson) ............................... 33

    Figure 17. Wild pollinator on Ohio spiderwort prairie plant (R. Samson) .................... 33

    Figure 18. Wild pollinator on Culver's root prairie plant (R. Samson) ............................ 33

    Figure 19. Cherry-pink aster with butterflies and bees (R. Samson) ............................... 34

    Figure 20. Bagged switchgrass mulch (J. Tost) ......................................................................... 35

    The 3 cover photos are courtesy of R. Samson, D. Nott, and N. Nadeau.

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    Introduction

    The increased use of mulch in gardening and farming systems presents a

    promising opportunity to foster greater sustainability in our food and ornamental

    pl

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