Skip to main content
ARS Home » Midwest Area » Columbia, Missouri » Cropping Systems and Water Quality Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #102555


item Donald, William

Submitted to: Weed Technology
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 10/12/1999
Publication Date: N/A
Citation: N/A

Interpretive Summary: Because the general public is concerned that currently used herbicides will contaminate surface water and ground water, alternative new ways of controlling weeds are needed. Field crops, such as corn or soybeans, now receive the lion's share of herbicides in the Corn Belt. Although not now used commercially, selective mowing between crop rows may have site- specific potential as an alternative to either field cultivation or herbicides for controlling weeds between crop rows. This method has application in environmentally sensitive areas and can help reduce soil erosion or water contamination by either sediment or herbicides. This small preliminary two-year study demonstrates that string trimmers or cord mowers have potential for controlling weeds between crop rows in corn and soybeans. When weeds are controlled within the crop row with other methods, cord or string mowing weeds growing between corn or soybean rows two to three times during the growing season allows the crop to yield as well as using hoeing between the crop rows, the traditional standard of comparison. Weed scientists and extension agents who will use this method of speeding creation of weed-free check plots in weed management experiments will benefit immediately. Home gardeners can also use this mechanical weed control method to help control weeds between rows in their tall growing garden crops. The method has a potentially large impact in reducing back-breaking laborious weeding in row crops in third world countries where nonchemical methods of controlling weeds are needed. Selective mowing also has potential in organic gardening and farming.

Technical Abstract: Weeded check plots are an integral part of most weed control experiments. They provide the maximum crop yield without weed competition. The traditional way to create weeded check plots is to hoe and pull weeds by hand in the row and hoe weeds between rows. But, erratic heavy rainfall can prevent timely hoeing. The objective of this experiment was to compare efaster, less laborious mechanized ways to control weeds between crop rows as alternatives to hoeing in corn and soybean. Hoeing, the traditional method for controlling weeds between crop rows, was compared with repeated mowing using either a cord-mower, string-trimmer or a roto-tiller between rows. Weeds growing in rows were controlled by hand-pulling and hoeing because the focus of the experiment was on speeding weed control between rows. All four methods for controlling weeds between crop rows were equally effective when measured as either corn or soybean yield, rated weed dcontrol, or weed ground cover in two years under contrasting rainfall patterns. Cord-mowing or string-trimming between rows was possible when soil was dry enough to walk upon but too wet to hoe or roto-till. These alternatives have promise in environmentally sensitive areas for reducing soil erosion or water contamination by either sediment or herbicides. Between row cord mowing or string trimming also may speed between row weed control on small land holdings in third world countries, reducing reliance on hoeing and hand-pulling.