How to do Weed Management in Organic Agriculture
Agriculture itself has a lot of challenges and farmers have to struggle a lot to keep their farm free from all negativities and Organic farmers have to struggle a little bit more as they need only Organic products in their farms.Organic Farmers most significant challenge is the growth of Weeds,
which is the door to other prone diseases and pests and could lead to a decline in the production of crops, and unlike Traditional farmers they cannot use any type of herbicides as it can be inorganic and could harm their crops. They need to develop effective and economical weed management practices so that the growth of weeds can be reduced producing high quality crops with a greater yield.
Here in this article we will study about the Management practices for weed control.
But before that lets learn about Weeds.
What is a Weed?
A weed is an unwanted plant in an unwanted place, which is grown as a wild plant undesirable for a particular situation. It is a hindrance to crop production and if it is not eliminated it will affect the crop to a great extent.
They not only affect the crops but also to the environment where they grow, which is not something positive. The light and air circulation around the crop plants are reduced creating a dark and humid environment making it an ideal situation for the pests and diseases to develop.
Weed Management in Organic Agriculture
Organic farmers have to use a different variety of tools for controlling and management of weeds which would not contain any toxic chemicals. They rely on proper soil management, crop rotation, machinery and promote healthy plant growth so as to control the weeds. Organic farmers cannot use chemical herbicides so they can only focus on cultural practices such as mulching, tillage, flooding, etc to manage the weeds.
Weed Management in Organic Agriculture
- Weeds are competitors of plants which grow with them and cause a hindrance by preventing them from light, air, water, nutrients and other growth requirements resulting in the reduction of crop yield.
- It also reduces the quality of crops. It starts serving as a host/home to many other pests and diseases harming the crops to a much greater extent.
- To remove it, laborers are employed which increases the labour cost, thus increasing the total cost of production.
- It grows as a cover to the crops and soils making the soil infertile, tbus reducing the value of the land.
- It is harmful to the environment as well and contaminates the water bodies too.
Preventive Measures to Control Weeds
Organic Farming uses many preventive measures which are applied by many farmers. The application of anh practice wholly or solely depends on the species of the weeds and the environmental conditions, so it is important to select a right variety of weed controlling practices which would not imply any toxic effect on the crops.
Some of the practices followed are:
- Cultural Methods – There are many cultural weed control methods which have the ability to control the weeds by selecting the right variety of crops and cultivars and monitoring crop production and management including pests and diseases.
Cultural practices include:
- Crop Rotation – It is the most important and efficient method for regulating seed and root weeds by changing the crop conditions preventing the growth and spreading of weeds.
- Intercropping – It is also very effective in weed control by planting such crops which are suppressive to weeds in between the main crop species.
- Mulching – By the plastic layer much against row crop with drip in Mulch can reduce up to 65% of mulch germination. Initially just to wrap mulch over bed for 4 to 6 days. By that seeds of the mulch will be destroyed. Because heat develop inside the plastic layer up to high level. No chances to propogate weed inside mulch. After 4 to 6 days we should transplant our crop on to bed system.Mulching prevents the light from entering through the mulch layer, preventing the weeds from receiving any light and thus it affects their growth.
- Cover crops & Green manures – It provides protection against soil erosion and increases the fertility and structure of the soil and is weed suppressive, reducing the weed populations and also minimizing the weed seed contribution to the soil.
- Stale Seedbed preparation – This is a method of preparing a fine seedbed where weeds are allowed to germinate and then they are directly removed using light cultivation or flame weeding and then the seeds or transplants are planted into moist weed-free soil.
- Choice of right seeds – Some variety of crops are suppressive to weeds and some are capable of tolerating the weeds. So the crops with better performance are preferred.
- Sowing time and plant density – When plants are provided with optimum growing conditions, it increases the ability to resist the weeds. Proper spacing between crops ensures minimum space for weeds to grow.
- Fertilization – It promotes the growth of crops preventing it from weeds.
- Pasturing – Sheeps, cattle and goats are used to resist weed growth by rotating them over the field to avoid selective grazing
- Mechanical Methods – Some of the physical actions through the use of farm equipment are listed under the mechanical weed control methods.
The successful mechanical practices followed by the farmers are:
- Hand hoeing
- Cutting and pulling
- Dredging and Chaining
- Thermal methods – When the temperature is increased or decreased so as to kill the weeds, it is known as thermal weed control.
Some of the methods include:
- Flame weeding – Plants are heated upto 100°C with the help of machines and a fuel gas which provokes the leaves bursting of their cell walls and the weeds get dried up and die.
- Solarization – A heavy and clear plastic sheet is laid over the weedy ground under the sun for over 4 to 6 weeks.The heat from the sun gets collected under the sheet which makes the weeds dry and brown colored.
- Hot water & Steam
- Ultraviolet Radiation
- Freezing – Weeds are killed by exposing them to lower temperatures as for aquatic weeds by removing water from the source or freezing the terrestrial weeds using dry ice.
- Preventive Methods – This is a method which prevents weeds from establishing in a cultivated crop. Some of the preventive measures are:
- Weed free seed
- Weed free hay
- Biological Methods – This practice involves the use of such agents which are alive and suppress the growth of weeds naturally. These living agents can be grazing animals, insects, fungi or bacteria which not only eradicates weeds but also controls the germination of seeds. The insects that are used in this practice are cinnabar-moth, tansy flea beetle, and chrysolina beetle, and this practice is also named as insect bio-control or integrated pest management (IPM).
Biological measures includes:
- Sheeps for control of tansy ragwort or leaf spurge
- Goats for controlling brush on rangeland
- Chemical Methods – Application of chemicals or Herbicides to the weeds are referred to as chemical weed control. But it should be remembered that these herbicides should not harm the surrounding crops of the weed. It should be selected after proper identification of the weed species and should be sprayed at correct timing and rate as it can damage the crop as well if it is sprayed more than the required amount.
Recommendations for proper Weed Management and Control
Organic farming offers a wide range of management methods but to make it work efficiently and effectively, it is required to follow certain steps and procedures. Farmers need to consider historical pest problems, management of soil, labour, machinery, market, time, and many more to develop effective strategies for controlling the weeds.
Here we are mentioning certain strategies to be understood and followed for controlling weeds.
- Select correct variety of crops to limit the weeds and which could satisfy the market needs
- Know your weeds and its species
- Do Crop rotation whenever required and alter the dates of plantation to destroy the weed life cycles
- Encourage agronomic practices
- Use Mulches, cover crops, green manures and others which helps in suppressing the weeds from germinating
- Timely tillage and cultivation is essential
- Chemical weed control is generally not recommended for organic production
- Select effective weed control tools and practices with an efficient cultivation designs
- Proper application of manures and proper composting is important before starting with plantation
- Solarization can be very effective
- Fertilization and proper irrigation using drip irrigation, irrigation bags or olla pots, can help in the control of weeds
- Boiling water and other thermal methods can also be very effective
- Effective water management are also very important for controlling weeds
- Mowing and cutting limits the growth of weeds
- Plant competitive crops
- Sanitation of seeds prevent them from creating new weed problems
- Pull the weeds by uprooting the plants either by hands or by using weed wrenches
- Perform ‘Blind cultivation’ methods to destroy the weeds
By far we got to learn about Weed Control & Management through various methods. Weeds create a hindrance in the growth of crops and it not only harms the crops but also the whole farm. Effective Management requires proper identification and understanding of weed biology and if it is not administered it can become a major problem by decreasing the crop yield and serving as host plants for pests and diseases. The weed control methods would help the farmers in reducing them from the farms and can even help in their removal.