Alternative Methods in Weed Management

Weed management is a tough job especially for the agriculture sector. It is complex, controversial and an expensive problem in a lot of ways. 

As we have seen, preserving soil fertility requires the need to reduce the use of herbicides. We have become dependent on these chemicals to make our lives easier. However, we’ve seen cases where it negatively impacts the ecosystem and human health. If we’re going to have to ban the use of herbicides, we have to look at alternative methods into weed control.

Alternative Weed Management Solutions: 

Manual weed control is tedious and time consuming. That’s why we will focus on other alternatives besides manual labour. 

Natural Herbicides

Natural herbicides are substances harvested directly from plants or animals. As they are natural, it is biodegradable, does not leave residues and harmless. However, it does not specifically target weeds, thus can affect non-targeted species as well. In saying that, the use of natural herbicides should be used only if other methods have failed. Acetic acid, citric acid and clove oil are a few examples. 

Cinmethylin, a natural herbicide produced by species of sage, can kill several annual grasses and can restrain growth of some broad-leaved weed species. 

Aqueous leachete, from the fresh leaves of Eucalyptus globules, significantly restrains early growth of weeds. 

Mechanical Weed Control

Mechanical weed control has both advantages and disadvantages, as many other options would have. This option is practical depending on the crop, soil type, price, operating costs and labour. Mechanical weeders can come in different shapes and sizes, from small basic hand tools to innovative tractor style equipment. There are machines that are made to suit for several types of farming such as inter row, harrowing, tractor hoes and brush weeders. 

Flame Weeding

This method is one of the most popular alternative methods after mechanical weeding. Weed burners are blowtorches adapted to deliver flames to the ground level. They do not burn the weeds to ashes however heats it up enough to ‘cook’ them. This works best on small weeds that have high moisture content because it will not be able to regrow after the leaves are dead. 

Flame weeders can be used for vegetation control and selective removal of unwanted plants. Although one disadvantage is it uses LPG (liquified petroleum gas). However, alternative fuels such as hydrogen can be used too. The cost of gas can be an issue for most farmers though. 

Laser Weed Control

This method is one of the new and upcoming methods to weed control and might still be under development. Laser has definitely infiltrated many other industries and has been an effective added tool, you know such as permanent hair removal. It may just be efficient and will help make the ban of herbicides possible.

A study found that lasers are able to deliver high density energy to a specific plant material, raising the temperature of water in plant cells, therefore restraining or delaying its growth. While this is still under research and development, some studies indicate that the efficiency of lasers can be improved. We shall see what’s to come with this technology!

Biological Weed Control

This involves using living organisms to reduce weed populations, integrated with cultural practices. This includes animals, insects, nematodes, bacteria and fungi. The effectiveness of this method depends on which organism you select. Fungi or insects that can consume seeds can reduce the number of weed seeds in the soil. However, the use of these organisms can be dangerous and should be done carefully. 

On the other hand, animal grazing is a popular method for physical control of weeds and weed management. Cattle, goats, sheep and horses can be used for weed management. Pigs are also good in controlling the growth of weeds and grass and cleaning up dropped apples in orchards. Many countries use pigs for vegetation control in organic orchard systems, while sheep grazing is becoming a common weed control method among vineyards. 

Which of these methods would you try? If you have a small backyard garden, it is worthwhile to take the time and physically remove the weeds. It may just be better for you, both mentally and physically, to spend some time in the garden instead of relying on herbicides!

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