The problem we addressed is weed control in brambles like blackberry. On my farm, brambles require a minimum of six to seven sprays throughout the year. This amounts to approximately twelve to fifteen pounds of pesticides applied annually. Because blackberries are gaining in popularity and prices for the fruit are increasing, the time is ripe to develop sustainable methods to reduce chemical in-puts and maintain or increase yields. It is important to lower input costs and increase net profits over the life of the bramble planting.
Our objective was to effectively manage weeds and insects and reduce dependency on herbicides and insecticides. Knowledge gained through these experiments could be applied to other small fruit or vegetable crops.
We utilized a system of weeder geese. We built “geese tractors” and moved them throughout the season. While we weren’t able to quantitatively measure difference in soil quality or insect pressure, that doesn’t mean there wasn’t any; the trail behind the geese tractors was visibly green and invigorated. We saw very little insect damage. The geese were effective in controlling grasses and did a nice job on fall panicum. However with the grasses controlled and providing little competition for the broadleaf weeds, dock and smartweed were more evident. But the geese were out there day in and day out controlling weeds and insects and freed up labor for other things. They have been a very good method for controlling weeds and insects without pesticides.