Organic farmers must find ways to prevent weeds from competing with our crops for nutrients and water without using synthetic chemicals.
Controlling weeds without synthetic herbicides takes a lot of time and is very costly. We do all our weeding by tractor or by hand, which is very labor-intensive. Conventional farmers spend only about $50 an acre on herbicides that knock out every weed in sight. Organic farmers may have to spend up to $1,000 an acre to keep weeds under control.
The best thing to do, then, is to prevent weeds from growing in the first place by limiting the germination of weed seeds. Some of the methods we use at Earthbound Farm are:
Cover Crops — Cover crops add organic matter to the soil and “shade out” weeds, keeping enough sunlight away from weeds to prevent them from reaching maturity and setting seed. The fewer weed seeds produced this year, the fewer weeds grow in our field next season.
Planning Ahead — We often pre-irrigate fields to germinate weeds, then till them under before they mature to reduce the quantity of weed seeds remaining in the soil.
Mechanical Solutions — We sometimes use a “flame weeder,” a propane device that directs flames toward the ground to kill newly germinated weeds.
Next in Organic 101:
Keeping plants healthy and disease-free the organic way