For the past two years, Annika Rowland, a graduate student in the Sustainable Cropping Systems Lab at Cornell University, has been studying how to manage weeds in soybean production without the use of herbicides or cultivation. Rowland’s experiment mimics an organic, no-till system, which can provide several environmental benefits. Organic farming prohibits the use of synthetic herbicides, which have been linked to environmental problems and concerns about human health. Soil tillage is commonly used in organic crop production for weed management, but this practice can contribute to soil erosion and other environmental problems.
No-till planting organic crops into mulch from cover crops is a promising alternative. However, weed management can be challenging in this system without herbicides or cultivation. Therefore, Rowland tested three cultural and physical weed management tactics in organically managed soybean: 1) using a high soybean seeding rate to shade out weeds; 2) mowing weeds between crop rows with a IRM-X4 inter-row mower (R-Tech Industries, Ltd); and 3) electrocuting weeds that grow above the crop canopy with a Weed Zapper Annihilator (Old School Manufacturing, LLC).
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