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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Research Project: Enhancing Sustainability of Irrigated Specialty Crops and Biofuel Feedstock Production

Location: Vegetable and Forage Crops Production Research

Title: Current state of weed management in organic and conventional cropping systems

Authors
item Mcerlich, Alec -
item BOYDSTON, RICK

Submitted to: Book Chapter
Publication Type: Book / Chapter
Publication Acceptance Date: November 10, 2013
Publication Date: December 5, 2013
Citation: McErlich, A., Boydston, R.A. 2013. Current state of weed management in organic and conventional cropping systems. In: Young, S.L, Pierce F.J., editors, Automation, the future of weed control in cropping systems. New York, NY: Springer Publishing. p.11-32.

Interpretive Summary: Crop losses due to weeds result in reduced yields and quality and increases in harvest costs. Weeds can also harbor pests (nematodes, insects, pathogens) of the crop reducing potential yields and quality further. Weed management often requires major resource inputs to produce a successful crop. Herbicides are central to the conventional approach to weed management, and they have allowed the grower to reduce management priority, time, effort, and cost of managing weeds. Their use has at times come at a price such as herbicide-resistant weeds, environmental damage, reduced water quality, and loss of genetic diversity. Although growers use a combination of management practices to control weeds, differences between those used in conventional agriculture compared to organic production systems often vary widely in their implementation and relative importance. Approaches to weed management within an organic system revolve around implementing a range of techniques, often consecutively over the course of the cropping rotation. For both organic and conventional growers, weed management remains a significant impediment to optimizing crop yield, improving crop quality, and reducing the costs of production. Grower concern over weed management remains a major hurdle for existing organic growers and hinders the conversion rate of conventional land to organic production. Additional focus on improved efficiencies from farm to consumer, reduced costs of production, improved technology transfer and enhanced yield and quality are necessary if organic production is to meet continuing consumer demand. The increasing problem of herbicide resistant weeds in conventional agriculture has contributed to a reassessment of alternative weed control methods including cultivation to ensure adequate control. Conventional growers often acquire organic production knowledge in order to overcome some of the limitations of an intensive herbicide system. Where farmers operate both conventional and organic systems, many recognize that new skills obtained from organic agriculture have application and benefits across their entire farming operation. A slowing of the rate, at which new herbicides are commercialized, input costs and the limitations posed by a lack of label registrations on minor crops, are encouraging growers to look beyond synthetic chemistry for answers to help with weed management. Uncertainty over access to adequate sources of labor to undertake weeding by hand and increasing labor rates, are major issues facing growers and will necessitate new technology. Multiple weed control methods used at multiple spatiotemporal scales are necessary if we are to reduce the negative impacts of weeds on crop production. Utilizing an integrated approach by combining a greater number of existing management options will be necessary if we are to preserve agro ecosystems and supply adequate food to a growing world population. New technologies offer promise to meet many of the challenges in weed control both in organic and conventional production systems.

Technical Abstract: Crop losses due to weeds result in reduced yields and quality and increases in harvest costs. Weeds can also harbor pests (nematodes, insects, pathogens) of the crop reducing potential yields and quality further. Weed management often requires major resource inputs to produce a successful crop. Herbicides are central to the conventional approach to weed management, and they have allowed the grower to reduce management priority, time, effort, and cost of managing weeds. Their use has at times come at a price such as herbicide-resistant weeds, environmental damage, reduced water quality, and loss of genetic diversity. Although growers use a combination of management practices to control weeds, differences between those used in conventional agriculture compared to organic production systems often vary widely in their implementation and relative importance. Approaches to weed management within an organic system revolve around implementing a range of techniques, often consecutively over the course of the cropping rotation. For both organic and conventional growers, weed management remains a significant impediment to optimizing crop yield, improving crop quality, and reducing the costs of production. Grower concern over weed management remains a major hurdle for existing organic growers and hinders the conversion rate of conventional land to organic production. Additional focus on improved efficiencies from farm to consumer, reduced costs of production, improved technology transfer and enhanced yield and quality are necessary if organic production is to meet continuing consumer demand. The increasing problem of herbicide resistant weeds in conventional agriculture has contributed to a reassessment of alternative weed control methods including cultivation to ensure adequate control. Conventional growers often acquire organic production knowledge in order to overcome some of the limitations of an intensive herbicide system. Where farmers operate both conventional and organic systems, many recognize that new skills obtained from organic agriculture have application and benefits across their entire farming operation. A slowing of the rate, at which new herbicides are commercialized, input costs and the limitations posed by a lack of label registrations on minor crops, are encouraging growers to look beyond synthetic chemistry for answers to help with weed management. Uncertainty over access to adequate sources of labor to undertake weeding by hand and increasing labor rates, are major issues facing growers and will necessitate new technology. Multiple weed control methods used at multiple spatiotemporal scales are necessary if we are to reduce the negative impacts of weeds on crop production. Utilizing an integrated approach by combining a greater number of existing management options will be necessary if we are to preserve agro ecosystems and supply adequate food to a growing world population. New technologies offer promise to meet many of the challenges in weed control both in organic and conventional production systems.

Last Modified: 9/10/2014
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