Combat herbicide resistance by using strip cultivation for weed management

Two webinars will explain strip cultivation, an alternative to herbicides for managing weeds in orchards and vineyards.

The Wonder Weeder front-mounted implement used for strip cultivation in a Michigan apple orchard.
The Wonder Weeder front-mounted implement used for strip cultivation in a Michigan apple orchard.

Managing ground cover in orchards and vineyards is important for reducing competition among fruit crops and non-crop plants or weeds. In young plantings, weeds compete for sunlight, water and nutrients resulting in smaller trees and vines. In mature plantings, weed competition can result in smaller fruits and lower yields.

Weed management in fruit crops often begins with tillage or an herbicide application before trees or vines are planted. Although this may give new plantings a head start on growth, the soil’s seed bank quickly replenishes weeds that were initially killed off. Therefore, repeated management is needed to keep weeds at bay.

Although managing weeds is necessary, using herbicides poses some challenges. For example, repeated use of the same herbicide may result in weed resistance to the herbicide. If not applied carefully, herbicide injury to trees and vines may occur. In certified organic systems, approved herbicides are not as effective as their conventional counterparts.

Wonder weederStrip cultivation, also known as the Swiss Sandwich system, is an herbicide alternative option for weed management. This approach uses a cultivating implement to disturb weeds by cultivating the top 3-5 inches of soil in the crop row (see photos). Research in the Organic Pest Management Lab at Michigan State University has demonstrated that strip cultivation provides comparable if not better weed control as well as increased soil nitrate and ammonium levels.

Want to learn more about strip cultivation? Join MSU Entomology’s Matt Grieshop and Brad Baughman for two free online webinars on using strip cultivation in apples and grapes. Topics include impacts of strip cultivation on weeds, pests and beneficial insects. Availability and pros/cons of strip cultivation equipment will also be discussed. The grape webinar will be held on March 4 from 12-3 p.m. The apple webinar will be held on March 5 from 12-3 p.m.

To access the webinar, enter into your browser’s address bar, select “Enter as a Guest,” type your name, and click on “Proceed.”

For more information on weed management using herbicides, refer to “Herbicides 2014” in the Michigan State University Extension 2014 Michigan Fruit Management Guide.

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