Weed Management Plan for Organic Farm
Step 1: Know Your Weeds
- Empower Yourself with Knowledge : Successful organic farming is knowledge intensive. Knowing a little about weeds, their biology, and ecology can go a long way toward reducing their impact. Making a list of the weed species that you have is a great first step and can be easy with the help of a good guidebook or weed identification website (e.g., Weeds of the Northeast by Uva, Neal, and DiTomaso).
- Know Your Weeds to Avoid Problem Fields : Before you rent or buy a new farm, make sure you know if you have a severe infestation of especially problematic weeds.
- Avoid Making Problem Weeds Worse : If you have perennial weeds like quackgrass, hoeing or disking may merely cut the rhizome into many small pieces. Since each individual rhizome segment can grow into another new plant, this makes your problem worse.
- Know Where Your Weeds Are on Your Farm: By knowing where these patches are on your farm, you can increase management intensity and reduce their density to a tolerable level.
- What are the main weeds in each crop on the farm?: Map your weeds. Note on your field map where your problem weeds occur and how this changes year to year.
Step 2: Design Your Rotation to Optimize Weed Suppression
- Rotate crops to prevent weeds from becoming adapted to your farm.
- Protect Poor Competitor Crops by Planting Them after "Cleaning" Crops
- Rotate Between Crops Having Different Characteristics
- Follow Weedy Crops with Crops Easy to Keep Clean
- Use a Stale Seedbed to Protect Slow-to-Germinate Crops
Step 3: Group Crops with Similar Management
In order to simplify your weed management practices, group crops that will be managed similarly. This will save time on adjusting equipment and allow you to block similar crops close to each other in the field.
Common groups for weed management might be as follows:
- Brassicas: cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower
- Cucurbits: summer squash, cucumbers, winter squash
- Greens: spinach, lettuce, chard, kale
- Legumes: peas, beans
- Roots: carrots, beets, turnips
- Solanaceous crops: tomatoes, peppers, eggplants
Step 4: Have the Right Tool for Your System
When designing your system think about the following:
- Which crop groups will have mechanical versus mulch-type weed control?
- What tools do you already have?
- What resources are available or less expensive in your area?
- What tools do you want to acquire? Think about what might be affordable and - appropriate to your scale.
- What bed and row spacing will you use to optimize the efficiency of your tools and - accommodate optimal row spacing for your crop?
Weed Management During Transition
Organic vegetables are often established on old hay fields or pastures to shorten time to certification. These fields may have severe infestations of perennial weeds and dense seed banks of annuals.
Avoid planting vegetables the first year.
Start with a cover crop.
Till in the cover crop before perennials get large or annuals go to seed.
Repeat at 4- to 6-week intervals all summer.
Tilled fallow will deplete the seed bank and exhaust perennial roots.
In early August plant a cover crop that will winter kill, such as sudax or buckwheat. This cover will compete with weeds in the fall and leave the field ready for planting in the spring.
If weeds are still likely, start with short season crops like lettuce that will be out before weeds go to seed.
Step 5: Make Cultural Practices Work for You
As a new organic farmer you will need to choose an appropriate cultivation scheme for your farm.
- Prevent the Arrival of New Weed Species
- Prevent Weed Reproduction
- Let the Crop Suppress the Weeds
Step 6: Create a Weed Control Calendar and Get Your Timing Right
In business, location is everything, but in weed management, timing trumps all. Once you have the basics down, refine your management plan by improving your timing of management practices.