Impact of mulching materials on weeds dynamics, soil biological properties and lettuce (Lactuca sativa L.) productivity
A Aziz, M Ashraf, M Asif, ME Safdar, SM Shahzad, MM Javaid, N Akhtar, H Waheed, MA Nadeem, S Ali, MS Munir
Chemical control of weeds in lettuce crop brings damaging effects on soil microorganisms and reduces produce quality. It is therefore essential to explore effective and safe weed management approaches. Hence, a repeated field experiment was conducted to investigate the impact of black plastic mulch, wheat straw, rice husk, saw dust and manual weeding on weeds, soil health and lettuce yield. The minimum inhibitory effect on fresh and dry weight (gm-2) of weeds was recorded by rice husk whereas highest was noted by the application of wheat straw. However, expensive hand weeding was found to be superior in managing weed infestation. Maximum lettuce plant height, number of leaves plant-1, head diameter, fresh weight, dry weight and yield was obtained from manually weeded and wheat straw mulch treated plots. The application of wheat straw as mulch caused an increase of 1.59%, 12.35%, 14.02%, 4.13%, 7.56%, 6.39%, 14.33% and 18.6% in net return, soil dehydrogenase activity, β-glucosidase activity, urease activity, microbial biomass carbon, nitrogen, phosphorus and bacterial population, respectively over control. It is suggested that wheat straw mulch could be used to get better economic return, improve lettuce yield, inhibit weed growth and enhance soil biological functioning.