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Weed Management Strategies for Sustainable Cropping Systems
Department of Plant and Soil Sciences
Weed management is generally viewed as a major challenge in conventional, transitional and organic cropping systems. Control of weeds in agriculture costs the U.S. economy more than $15 billion annually, more than the cost of controlling insects and diseases combined. Although organic cropping systems are often highly profitable anyway, weed densities frequently boarder on or exceed tolerable levels, and surveys of organic growers and studies of organic farms indicate that weeds are a major production problem. Moreover, existing methods for controlling weeds on organic farms depend on excessive soil disturbance, resulting in loses in soil quality.
Currently, little research is directed toward the weed management needs of organic producers. New methods like organically certifiable herbicides and weed management with cover crops are needed. There is also a need to evaluate existing approaches like nutrient management for weed control and the mechanisms of cultivator action.
Conversations with growers indicate that fear of uncontrolled weeds is frequently a factor inhibiting adoption of organic practices. Development of new weed management methods and improvement of traditional methods will speed adoption of organic practices, thereby reducing use of both herbicides and other pesticides. This will improve environmental quality and reduce expenses for farmers. Better weed management options will also improve yield and profits, thereby strengthening local communities.