Weed Control

Weed control is an ongoing issue which organic and conventional growers have been fighting against for centuries. In order for weed control to be successful it’s necessary to be proactive and implement many strategies, some of which not only focus on weed management, but have other benefits as well. Crop advisors can also be of assistance when dealing with unknown or persistent weeds.

Three main practices for weed control include preventative measures which reduce the sprouting ability of weeds, competitive methods that give crops the ability to compete with weeds, and off-balance methods that make it difficult for weeds to adapt to changing environments. Weed control is necessary as weeds absorb nutrients and affect the yields of cash crops.

Weed Control Methods

A powerful preventative method of weed control is cover cropping, which smothers weeds while also providing the soil with nitrogen and other nutrients it requires to increase yields. A competitive strategy of weed control is to plant rows closer to each other, or planting the maximum number of plants a field can hold. Both of these methods give crops a competitive advantage over weeds. Cultivation or tilling is a method used by growers for the reduction of weeds as a preventative measure. Drip irrigation systems are another a preventative solution against weeds, and also save costs on water and pumping.

Other weed control practices use herbicides and/or pests to kill weeds. The downside to these options is the potential of agricultural runoff contaminating ground and surface water, and also the chance of killing cash crops in the process. Strategies such as selecting varying seeding dates, rotating herbicides, and applying herbicides at different times in the cropping schedule are off-balance methods that don’t let the weeds adapt to a specific schedule.

Organic Farm Methods

A method which organic growers can use to control weeds is no till or low till farming with a cover crop roller to suppress weeds, which is beneficial for soil health. Another method that is used specifically for organic agriculture is black plastic. This method is not sustainable as it increases soil erosion and runoff as well as a large amount of waste from the plastic itself. By growing crops in rotation and planting allelopathic crops (as part of the rotation), this reduces the possibility of weeds in the next cropping. Flame-burning weeds is another option used in organic agriculture, but the downfall to this option is the potential of burning cash crops in the process. This method is best used prior to the sprouting of cash crop seeds to eliminate any weeds prior to the growth of cash crops.

In order to have effective weed control, it is important to implement a plan using preventative, competitive and off-balance methods together to be successful. The benefits of using the sustainable options is that they tend to have more than one benefit, although they can have high upfront costs.