I get the most interesting questions on my website. Some provoke editorial response:
Biological agriculture is a race between crops and weeds. The farmer’s job is to give his crops an unfair advantage in competition for sunlight. One way is growing cover crops to smother invasive weeds. Sunnhemp (Crotalaria juncea) is an effective mulch crop for weed suppression.
Wild Morning Glory (Ipomoea species) is the bane of my existence. Closely related to sweet potatoes, morning glories thrive in poor soils, are immune to most insects, and grow so rapidly that they overwhelm all surrounding plants.
In Butler County (30 miles north of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) morning glories are like intermittent epidemics. Some years you rarely see a vine. Other seasons your fields are covered.
I returned from a business trip to find my neighbor’s back-40 strangled by herbicide resistant morning glories. Vines blanketed the land like Kudzu (Pueraria montana). He sprayed tankfuls of glyphosate trying to save his soybeans. All that did was make the weeds mad. 6 weeks later, vengeful vines obliterated his GMO corn.
My neighbor was hitching up his 8-bottom moldboard when I offered to help. George has a dim view of “organic farming” but he likes spending money even less, so it was not a difficult decision: Plow everything under or let Eric make a fool of himself. Hmm. . .
My solution: 60 pounds per acre of rotary seeded Sunnhemp followed by a 30-year-old sickle-bar mower. Sow-And-Mow eliminated his weed problem. The Sunnhemp reached 8 feet high in 7 weeks, shading all competing vegetation.
Next, I broadcast 12 pounds per acre of Dutch White Clover (Trifolium repens) into the standing cover crop then mowed the Sunnhemp with a bush hog.
In Autumn I no-till drilled 60 pounds per acre of pelleted Winter Rye (Secale cereale) into the mature clover. The field required no other work until grain harvest the following summer.
There is a lesson to be learned here:
RULE: Always seed cover crops at maximum rates for weed control.
RULE: Do not plow, disk, or harrow — this only encourages weed germination.
RULE: Keep fields covered with growing crops at all times to kill weed seedlings.
Follow these rules and weeds will NEVER get established in your fields.
This is what Biological Agriculture is all about: Crop competition keeps weeds controlled without need for mechanical cultivation or chemical herbicides. Let nature do the heavy lifting.
Related Publications Include: Managing Weeds as Cover Crops; Trash Farming; Planting Maize with Living Mulches; Living Mulches for Weed Control; and Crops Among the Weeds.
Other Articles of Interest: Crop Rotation Primer; Weed Seed Meal Fertilizer; Organic Herbicides; Pelleted Seed Primer; and Forage Maize for Soil Improvement.
Would You Like to Know More? Please visit: http://www.worldagriculturesolutions.com — or — send your questions about biological weed control to: Eric Koperek, Editor, World Agriculture Solutions, 413 Cedar Drive, Moon Township, Pennsylvania 15108 United States of America — or — send an e-mail to: firstname.lastname@example.org
About the Author: Mr. Koperek is a plant breeder who farms in Pennsylvania during summer and Florida over winter. (Growing 2 generations yearly speeds development of new crop varieties).