Organic Weed Management
Where do weeds come from?

Annual weeds originate from seed, the majority arise from seeds left in the soil                   after previous crops.

Cultivated land has an average seedbank of 12,000 seeds in a square yard ,                      capable of germinating if conditions are suitable.

The seeds of some weeds are blown in the wind, dispersed with irrigation water,               or carried  by animals and spread in their droppings.

Weed seeds lodged on farm machinery can be spread from field to field.

Why are annual weeds a problem?

Annual weeds reduce crop yield and quality, delay maturity and hinder                                  harvesting.

However, are weeds really a “problem”?  Plants are only defined as a “weed” by                 man and many species have beneficial aspects to offer the farmer.

Biodiversity benefits of weeds

In organic systems weed management rather than complete control is always the                aim.

At low densities weeds can provide many benefits for the farmer:
         oThey can help conserve soil moisture and prevent soil erosion.
         oA ground cover of weeds can reduce leaching of nutrients, particularly                                   nitrogen.
         oWeeds can provide shelter for natural enemies of pests or even act as                                   alternative food sources or decoys for crop pests.
         oWeeds provide food for many seed-eating birds.
         oWeeds also host a number of useful insects
         oCertain weeds can be indicators of growing conditions in a field (i.e. low                                potassium etc.)
                                                             -taken from HDRA Organic Weed                                                                                          Management 2007

How to manage weeds on the Watson Ranch Organic Program

An unhealthy soil will cause weeds to grow.  The first step is to remember that this is a program and it will take time. 

The amount of weeds in your field will depend on many variables:

Are you recovering from a drought?

Have you been using heavy chemicals?

Have you broken new ground?

Is it a new pasture where weeds had once been prominent?

Has your field been overgrazed by livestock?

Take into consideration that if you started applications in the late winter (Jan-March) and are following up in the Spring (April-June) the soil temperature is also changing.  Weeds may be growing (even if you are on your second or third application) due to the fact that the soil has not maintained a warm enough temperature for your main crop to “choke out” the weeds.

During the growing season we recommend mowing down the weeds before they seed head out.  Lastly we recommend patience.  If you want to have an Organic Pasture then you must learn that when using Organics it does take time, but in that time you can rest assured that you are NOT doing anything damaging to your place by using Chemicals.  How long will it be before you see a decrease in weeds that depends on the above mentioned variables.  Many people do not realize the damage that has been done to their fields and that by using Organics we are trying to correct that damage.

A common question that we get asked is if herbicides and pesticides can also be used on their place.  Our response is why do you want to?  Isn’t that like taking one step forward and two steps back.  Most times if herbicides and pesticides are used the weeds keep coming back year after year. There has never been a weed or insect that has totally been eradicated from the face of the Earth by Herbicide or Pesticide.  The fact is that the weeds and insects become immune to the chemicals.  If this is the case why have we been poisoning the soil with chemicals when it’s not ridding the land of weeds and insects?   Our goal is to have a healthy soil through Organic Practices so that the crops grow, not the weeds.

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