Organic Weed Control: How Farmers Manage Weeds without Chemicals

Organic farming is a sustainable agricultural practice that seeks to protect the environment, biodiversity, and human health. It is based on natural practices such as crop rotation, mechanical weed control, and the use of alternatives to critical active substances. Crop rotation is the core of organic weed management and helps keep weed communities out of balance by mixing cropping systems and long rotations to improve soil fertility and economic diversity. Farmers use rotary, rod, sickle or flail mowers to control weeds in pastures, on the margins of fields and, sometimes, in the fields themselves.

Mowing the lawn eliminates top growth and leaves stubble from one inch to several inches high, which can have a significant impact on certain weeds. Some annual weeds are quite susceptible to mowing and can be prevented from producing seeds with one or two mows. Even the growth and vegetative reproduction of perennial weeds can be restricted if they are mowed on time or repeatedly. Organic weed control plans are comprehensive approaches to managing weeds throughout the year.

A good weed control plan is directly related to building soil fertility and creating the perfect planting environment for chosen plants to thrive. When farmers do not want to continue growing for reasons related to the development phase of the crop or the quality of the soil, it may be enough to cut the weeds between rows of an established vegetable crop to avoid reducing crop yields and reducing the production of weed seeds. Interrow cultivators, which consist of several shovels or sweepers mounted on toolbars, separately or in groups (depending on the spacing between rows of crops) cut or uproot weeds up to six inches tall, and are perhaps the most commonly used growing tools. Two of the most aggressive cultivators between rows, effective on fairly large weeds, are the rotary tillage cultivator or the multivator (also useful for preparing seedbeds with striped tillage) and the horizontal disc cultivator.

Paper mulches that are used alone are less effective than plastic ones, but placing a paper mulch under hay or other organic mulch can improve weed control compared to organic mulch alone. Organic mulches, such as hay, straw, tree leaves and wood chips, keep weed seeds that respond to light in the dark, make it physically difficult for weed seedlings to emerge, and can provide shelter for terrestrial beetles and other weed seed consumers. Canadian organic standards prohibit the use of genetically modified seeds in laboratories for agriculture. Ben Colchester is an organic farmer from Kilkenny County, Ireland who works to protect the soil and environment while offering healthy products to his customers.

He spends a lot of time at local Edmonton markets and his products can be found at popular organic stores such as Blush Lane and Planet Organic as well as at Organic Box. Crop rotation, cover crops, and other weed management techniques such as mulching help conventional and organic farmers control weeds in their crops. Many farmers use specially designed crop tractors with belly-mounted tools so that the operator can easily see and adjust the position of the tool in relation to the crop. Most of the cultivation takes place between the time the crop is planted and when it closes its cup (which severely reduces weed growth due to competition) or becomes too large for cultivation operations. It's one of the reasons why Canada's organic standards ensure that organic farmers use unmodified seeds for their crops. Organic farming is a sustainable agricultural practice that seeks to protect both human health and environment while providing healthy products for customers.