Organic farmers report that weeds are one of the biggest obstacles to the production of organic crops. In the field of organic agriculture, weed management is more complex and the use of herbicides is a last choice for weed control. Integrated Weed Management (IWM) systems offer a model for the use of multiple weed control methods that address ecological concerns.
An article in the current issue of Weed Science presents results of a survey of organic farmers in 12 Midwestern states. This study sought to understand the weed management decisions of organic farmers by gathering information regarding weed control methods most commonly employed, their perceptions of innovations in weed control, the structure of their farm operations, and demographic data.
Organic farmers differ from other farmers in their decision-making. The study found that organic farmers most often use mechanical and cultural methods of weed control. Included among the top methods reported by organic farmers were crop rotation (86%), between-row cultivation (78%), primary tillage (76%), and cover cropping (66%).
Concern for the environment and agricultural sustainability are tenets of both organic farming and IWM. Factors that may influence IWM adoption include farm size, crop choice, cropping diversity, and land tenure. This study sought to quantify IWM application on working organic farms to determine if and how the IWM concept can translate into viable organic weed management.
Organic weed management systems are diverse and whether a grower chooses to produce grains, vegetables, or flowers, there are certain weed management restrictions. This study shows that the best outreach approach to dispersing ecological weed management information is by targeting formally educated and experienced growers. IWM may best serve as a transition strategy for growers looking to reduce reliance on a single method of weed management.
Full text of the article, “Weed Management Practice Selection Among Midwest U.S. Organic Growers,” Weed Science, Vol. 62, No. 3, July–September 2014, is now available.