Ecologically based weed management: A manual and training program for farm advisors

Project Overview

Project Type: Professional Development Program
Funds awarded in 2006: $129,670.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2009
Region: Northeast
State: New York
Project Leader:
Dr. Charles Mohler
Cornell University

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: barley, canola, corn, cotton, oats, potatoes, rye, safflower, sorghum (milo), soybeans, spelt, sugarbeets, sunflower, wheat, grass (misc. perennial), hay
  • Fruits: berries (other), berries (strawberries), melons
  • Vegetables: sweet potatoes, beans, beets, broccoli, cabbages, carrots, cauliflower, celery, cucurbits, eggplant, garlic, greens (leafy), onions, parsnips, peas (culinary), peppers, rutabagas, sweet corn, tomatoes, turnips, brussel sprouts


  • Animal Production: feed/forage
  • Crop Production: cover crops, fallow
  • Education and Training: extension, workshop
  • Pest Management: allelopathy, competition, cultural control, disease vectors, eradication, flame, mulches - killed, physical control, mulching - plastic, cultivation, prevention, mulching - vegetative, weed ecology, weeder geese/poultry
  • Production Systems: transitioning to organic, holistic management
  • Soil Management: organic matter, soil quality/health

    Proposal abstract:

    Farm surveys and case studies show that weeds often cause substantial problems for organic farmers and others who avoid the use of herbicides. Nevertheless, weeds are consistently well controlled on some organic farms. Many cultural and mechanical procedures are available for suppressing weeds in sustainable cropping systems. A key factor in successful weed management in sustainable agriculture, however, appears to be sound understanding of the biology of weeds and how to use weed biology to leverage effective management.

    We propose to develop a manual on ecologically based weed management and use this in a series of training workshops for extension personnel throughout the Northeast. The manual will include sections covering the biology of various types of weeds, explain the advantages and limitations of various cultural procedures, and discuss how to effectively apply various types of tillage and cultivation. The manual will also discuss identification, ecological characteristics, and management of 75 major weeds, 80% of which are problems for growers in the Northeast. Finally, it will discuss how these ecological weed management is integrated on real farms.

    An Advisory/Training Team of ten farm educators will review and critique the manual. They will also assist in a series of eight workshops for extension personnel held throughout the Northeast. Workshops will explain principles of weed biology and ecologically based weed management, and then train participants on use of the manual for solving weed problems.

    The project will be evaluated through extension activity logs of the Advisory/Training Team, and surveys of workshop attendees.

    Performance targets from proposal:

    Target 1. Of the 10 members of the project Advisory/Training Team, all will gain sufficient understanding of the ecological approach to weed management to convey the essential paradigm shift to growers. At least 8 will co-present workshops to extension personnel. All will use knowledge gained in the project in extension activities reaching a minimum total of 300 growers, and improve weed management on 30 farms during the lifetime of the project.

    Target 2. Of 210 extension professionals who take the weed management workshops, 170 will answer an evaluation questionnaire, and of these 150 will perceive improved skill in ecologically based weed management. Ninety of these will have used that knowledge in extension activities.
    Verification and assessment

    Members of the project Advisory/Training Team will keep records of their use of the knowledge gained from the project in their work with farmers (e.g., newsletter articles, one-on-one advice etc.) from the time they first receive the draft manuscript. They will also note any related changes they perceive on the farms with which they have contact. At the ends of Years 2 and 3, the Project Coordinator will collect and compile these notes. In addition, at the beginning of year 3, they will answer a questionnaire to evaluate their level of knowledge acquisition.

    Contact information will be collected from workshop attendees. At the workshops they will be asked to keep track of their use of knowledge gained through the workshop and reading of the manual. During the latter part of Year 3, they will be contacted to determine (i) whether they perceived improvement in weed management skills as a result of the workshop or manual, (ii) the extent to which they used the information in their work, and (iii) how many farms they know of that changed weed management practices as a result of their advice. Contact will be first by e-mail, with telephone calls to non-responders.

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.