Matthew Wiggins, another UT doctoral student, spent the summer looking at how cover crops might be used to curb Palmer pigweed problems.

“We’re proving that not only will cover crops prevent erosion, but they can also perhaps shade out pigweed early in the season,” he says.

He’s investigating winter wheat, cereal rye, crimson clover, hairy vetch and Australians winter peas. “We’re also mixing them in the drill to see if we get any benefits from a combination of these,” he says.

It’s best to plant cover crops early, Wiggins thinks, so they can get good growth before winter dormancy.

Those cover crops could change how west Tennessee looks, if nothing else.

“It’s going to look like Ireland around here this winter,” says Larry Steckel, Tennessee Extension weed specialist. “I’m getting a lot of calls on cover crops. I think it can help us with pigweed. It saved a burndown application and took out marestail and helped us on the front end with pigweed. The complete answer to pigweed cannot be poured out of a jug. We have to get some cultural things back into play.”

Steckel says USDA’s Natural Resources Conservation Service will share costs of cover crop seed.

West Tennessee farmers haven’t conquered resistant Palmer pigweed yet but many are managing it better. “We’re in a lot better shape now than we were last year,” Steckel says.