The brush hoe cultivator (Bartchi Fobro Co., Switzerland) was evaluated for weed control cool-season vegetables in the Salinas Valley. The brush hoe was compared with conventional vegetable cultivators in seven on-farm trials. The brush hoe cultivated closer to the seed row than the conventional cultivators used by the growers. It left uncultivated strips 2 7/8 inch wide while conventional cultivators generally left uncultivated strips four inches wide. The brush hoe provided comparable or improved weed control over conventional cultivation.
The Organic Farming Research Foundation of Santa Cruz, CA generously provided a grant of $3,479 in 1999 to initiate this study at the Southwest Research Center, Mt. Vernon, MO. The 2000 growing season was completed September 28, 2000, and I am pleased to submit this final summary of our results. A proposal for the funding of the second year's research has been submitted to OFRF. The particle film technology tested in this study appears to offer tremendous potential in safely suppressing both insects and disease in Midwestern apple production.
Several recent developments have resulted in the need for a new examination of flaming as a nonchemical method of weed control. First, there has been an increase in the number of soybean producers growing organic soybeans for the edible soybean market. These producers need a method of weed control that does not rely on chemicals. Second, new technologies in burner design and the use of water shields have increased the efficiency and effectiveness of flame weeders in destroying weeds while at the same time decreasing the harmful effects of heat on the crop plant.
Flame weeding has been a controversial issue since it was introduced 58 years ago in North America. Today it is a bigger topic than ever. The idea behind flame weeding is to kill weeds with an intensive wave of heat, without disturbing the soil or harming the crop root system. Since all plants are composed of tiny cells filled largely with water, a thin blast of heat directed at the stalk will boil the water within the cell. The pressure generated by this expanding water will then explode the cell it self, rupturing a cross section of the stalk.
Weeds pose one of the most important threats to crop production. Losses in both yield and quality of crops due to weeds, as well as costs of weed control, constitute an enormous economic problem in crop production. Weeds have a major influence on the production decisions made by producers. Additional land, labor, equipment, fuel, herbicides, insecticides, fungicides, fertilizer, and irrigation water may be required to maintain economical production when weeds are present.
A primary goal in developing environmentally sound and profitable farming systems has been to prevent soil degradation and erosion loss, and wherever possible, enhance soil quality through organic matter management. Conventional tillage practices currently used for vegetable production in the Willamette Valley involve from 5-8 passes over the field. For the past four years we have been working with vegetable growers in the Willamette Valley to develop an integrated system of vegetable production using winter annual cover crops and rotary strip- tillage.