Measuring and Comparing the Impacts of Various Weed Control Methods on Field Restoration
Three different methods of non-chemical weed control will be tested to determine which treatment is most cost-effective, both in terms of materials and of man-hours used, for rehabilitating idled farm fields.
My farm tested different methods of non-chemical weed control methods in the production of peppers (Capsicum annuum). The different methods were: Straw, layered about 6 inches deep; landscape fabric; fire; and a control consisting of hand weeding. Work that needs to be completed includes a mail survey of neighbors, set up an operational website and develop photos and other results to be uploaded to the website.
The grant funds were spent in the following ways:
1. Purchase 1400 pepper plants.
2. Purchase 200 bales of wheat straw.
3. Purchase landscape fabric.
4. Purchase a propane flame weeder.
5. Purchase a 20 pound propane tank and propane.
6. Purchase film.
7. Pay local farmers Dan Hale and Gary Johnson for their assistance with the project.
8. Pay statistician Deborah Rumsey for designing the layout of the experiment.
10. Pay Eric Johnson for conducting trials and recording results
The upcoming expenses that the grant will be paying include:
1. Developing film.
2. Printing and mailing the survey.
3. Paying Kythrie Silva for setting up the website, and uploading all photos and results.
4. Paying Deborah Rumsey to analyze the results of the survey.
5. Paying Eric Johnson for entering data.
6. Paying Eric Johnson for evaluating results.
I have not formally analyzed the data so far, but it was obvious to me that the landscape fabric was the most effective weed control method. The straw method was moderately effective at controlling weeds but the straw provided a safe haven for hungry slugs. Picking the slugs off the plants by hand was very time consuming (and revolting). Slugs were not an issue with the other treatments. The flame thrower was difficult to use extremely close to the plants, because of the risk of flaming the pepper plants along with the weeds. The flame thrower was effective at controlling weeds, as long as the weeds were young. Weeds that were mature, i.e. blooming, were controlled by flaming to the extent that the leaves would burn off and the stems would wilt, but the roots were unaffected, resulting in needed follow-up treatments. The control group of hand-pulling weeds was extremely time consuming and laborious and required many follow-up applications.
All treatments were applied in a modified block treatment of 50 plants each, plus alternating rows of one treatment. The design of this statistical layout of the treatments allowed the flame treatment to be next to the straw treatment, along with the two other treatments. The flame treatment did catch the straw on fire, killing 10 plants. There was an opportunity to lose many, many more plants because of the fire. Obviously, this design will be unacceptable for future tests, because of the fire risk.
We also tested whether the sweetness or hotness of the pepper fruit influenced the weeds. We tested this by alternating sweet and hot plants in the blocks, and also in the alternating rows of only one treatment. There was no apparent influence by the presence or absence of capsaicin in the fruit on weed growth near the plant. The more capsaicin that is present in the fruit means that the fruit is hotter.
WORK PLAN 2007
The cost-benefit analysis will be performed, with the total cost per treatment to be determined. The website will be set up, with the photos and results loaded. The community mail survey will be generated and mailed out, with the results analyzed and posted.
A website will be set up to share photos, results from the survey, and cost-benefit analyses with the public.