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Innovative Systems for Weed Control in Small Scale Organic Production

Published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, St. Joseph, Michigan www.asabe.org

Citation:  2012 Dallas, Texas, July 29 - August 1, 2012  121337536.(doi:10.13031/2013.42156)
Authors:   John H Wilhoit, Timothy S Stombaugh, William N Pomery, Mark A Williams
Keywords:   Organic production, Cultivation, Automatic Guidance, Mechanization, Mulch

The use of herbicides is not allowed in organic vegetable production, so weeds must be controlled by mechanical means, usually by the use of mulches or by cultivation, or a combination of both, as well as through cultural methods. Plastic film mulches, which are very effective at controlling weeds within the vegetable bed, are used extensively in both conventional and organic production, but weed control between the rows of plastic mulch is still very challenging, especially for organic growers. Mulching with round bales of hay and straw is a method used by some organic growers to control weeds. An offset bale unroller offers a simple concept for modifying a standard implement for unrolling hay bales into a new configuration that can straddle a row of plastic and unroll the bale in the space between rows for mulching. It greatly reduces the labor requirements for this practice. Precision cultivation is another important method used for weed control in organic vegetable production. A power steering retrofit for an older, inexpensive cultivating tractor, makes precision cultivation considerably easier, both for bare ground and plasticulture cultivating applications. A study looking at GPS-based automatic guidance system applications in plasticulture vegetable production is giving an indication of some of the potential benefits, but the high cost of the technology isa significant challenge for smaller scale vegetable growers. With the reduction in costs for various automation technologies, it will be important to conduct further investigations into applications of these technologies to benefit weed control for smaller-scale organic production.

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