Farm Horizons, May 2003

Antiques, or useful weed control tool?

By Myron Oftedahl, Glencoe-Hutchinson Agronomy

There have been a lot of discussions concerning the merits and downfalls of chemical weed control.

Should I use a preplant or pre-emergence product? Can I spray it post-emergence and do it all in one pass? One trip of Roundup or two? Can I do Roundup Ready corn and soybeans?

With the emphasis on chemical controls, we have forgotten some tools that are probably on your farm already. And the best part of these tools is that there is no weed resistance issues, drift issues, groundwater concerns, etc.

Whatever am I talking about?

I am referring to steel, as in rotary hoes, harrows, and row crop cultivators. I can hear you laughing and saying "I haven't used them in years."

Just as herbicides are a tool in a weed control program, the rotary hoe and the harrow is a tool when, properly used, can eliminate an early weed flush before a total post-emergence spraying, or it can help a preplant or pre-emergence herbicide in a dry spring.

A row crop cultivator can be an effective tool used to aerate the top soil and reduce stress from root rots in soybeans. It can also be a cost-effective weed control option. With all of the concerns of weed resistance to certain herbicides, there is yet to be a weed resistant to a cultivator shovel.

Resistance in this sense is being defined as requiring a higher rate of chemical to control it, and that there would be a greater population with the next generations. I know it seems that some weeds are made of magic rubber and can avoid the cultivator shovel, but that is not in the definition of weed resistance.

U of M research back in the late '80s showed that a timely harrowing or rotary hoe was as effective as a chemical treatment. "Wait a minute you say, this guy sells chemicals." That is right, but when you are planning a weed control strategy, don't forget to use all of the tools that are available. You don't fix your car with just a screwdriver and pliers; you don't clean a house with just a broom.

So, during the next couple of months while we're in the field, I would urge you to consider all of the tools that are available for your weed control plan. Reacquaint yourself with that rotary hoe or row crop cultivator that is tucked into the back corner of the machine shed.

Who knows, you may get to spend quality time with your kids or grandkids explaining what that implement is and how it works!

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