Although dried distillers grains (DDGs) are usually fed to livestock, they could also be used to fight weeds and reducing herbicide use, according to new insights at ARS.
In laboratory, greenhouse and field studies over the past few
years, Vaughn has shown that applying DDGs to soil as a surface mulch can not
only suppress weeds, but also bolster the growth of tomatoes and some
turfgrasses. In one study, for example, Roma tomatoes in DDG-treated plots
yielded 226 pounds, versus 149 pounds from untreated control plots.
attributes some of the increase to nitrogen, phosphorus and other nutrients
released by the DDG mulch as it decayed.
In another study, using various
analytical methods, NCAUR collaborator Mark Berhow is seeking to identify,
measure and monitor the activity of the chemicals in the DDG mulch that may have
kept chickweed, annual rye and other weeds from germinating.
Rick Boydston, an ARS collaborator at Prosser, Wash., tested
the mulch’s weed control in potted ornamentals, including roses. He observed
that DDGs worked best when applied to the soil surface, because mixing them into
the soil harmed both ornamentals and weeds alike. On another front at Peoria,
ARS chemist Rogers Harry O’Kuru is examining DDGs for phytosterols, lecithin and
other substances with potential use as health-promoting food
Exceed current demand
The team’s efforts to expand
the market for DDGs are timely. In the Midwest, ethanol producers generate 10
million tons of DDGs annually. Farmers buy most of it for about $80 per ton and
feed it to cows and other ruminants. However, the nation’s increasing production
of ethanol may create a DDG surplus that exceeds the current demand, Vaughn
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