Trials and Informing Regional Farmers about Organic Weed Control Methods

Project Overview

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2011: $13,163.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2012
Region: Western
State: New Mexico
Principal Investigator:
Dale Rhoads
Rhoads Farm

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: corn, potatoes


  • Crop Production: conservation tillage
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension, farmer to farmer, networking, on-farm/ranch research, workshop, technical assistance
  • Energy: energy conservation/efficiency, energy use
  • Farm Business Management: whole farm planning, budgets/cost and returns, farm-to-institution, feasibility study
  • Natural Resources/Environment: soil stabilization
  • Pest Management: allelopathy, flame, mulches - killed, mulches - living, mulching - vegetative
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management, organic agriculture, permaculture
  • Soil Management: green manures, organic matter, nutrient mineralization, soil quality/health
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, employment opportunities, social networks, sustainability measures

    Proposal summary:

    These trials are unique in terms of introducing several new important weed management techniques and skills to regional farmers. Effective and sustainable weed control strategies are some of the most critical areas of concern for the economic and sustainable viability of local production of organic vegetables. For over ten years Rhoads Farm has been experimenting in on-farm and formal trials on the use of organic herbicides and flaming, and over the last five years on the manipulation of cover crops, especially the creation of an ‘in-place’ soil building ‘crimp-killed’ over- wintered cover crop mulch that has crops planted into the in-place mulch.

    This current project is aimed at testing, measuring and reporting on seven different techniques of managing weeds (and fertility) in longer season, larger vegetable plants. This current test is part of a long-time project Rhoads has done to design a new more efficient overall weed management program with less off-farm inputs in a manner that provides information for other farmers to implement in their own weed management programs.

    The Trials

    There will be seven weed management treatments in seven side-by-side 3’ by 90’ test areas. Three replications of five ‘summer’ vegetables will be tested in each weed management treatment area, making a total of 15 3’ by 6’ vegetable treatment plots in each of the seven 3’ by 90’ long weed management treatment areas. This will give a total of 105 individual test plots (five test vegetables by three replications by seven weed management techniques or treatments). Drip irrigation will be used.

    The weed management treatments to be tested against each other are:

    1. No winter cover crop. Hand and mechanical weeding techniques.

    2. Annual winter rye and hairy vetch (WR-HV) cover crop turned under and hand-weeding as weed control.

    3. The WR-HV winter cover turned into the soil, and a heavy organic mulch applied as weed control.

    4. WR-HV cover crop turned into the soil and an organic herbicide (Matran EC) and flaming weed control.

    5. Crimped WR-HV winter cover provides in-place mulch. No other weeding done.

    6. WR-HV winter cover crop crimped into a mulch. Organic herbicide weed control the rest of season.

    7. WR-HV winter cover crop crimped. Additional weed control by adding off farm mulch.

    The five test vegetables/flowers are: chilies, tomatoes, squash, corn and sunflowers. There will be in the various treatments 100 plants each of squash, chili and tomatoes and approximately 200-250 each of the sunflowers and sweet corn.

    The data to be collected are: water use per treatment area, harvest size, effectiveness of weed control treatments, overall weed control labor time/costs including installation of weed control techniques, and soil fertility tested monthly.

    The possible benefits of the in-place cover crop turned into a mulch: low off-farm inputs, soil building characteristics, water savings of an ‘in-place mulch,’ and less labor with the ‘crimp killed overwintered nitrogen producing cover crop.’ Less nitrogen fertilizer or manures pollution leaching into our waterways is very exciting, and we need these kinds of field trials done in order to gather more hard data to allow organic farmers AND conventional farmers to make more informed weed management choices and begin wider experimentation and use of these cover crop manipulation techniques.

    The basic outreach plan is to attend as many regional farmers' markets and extension agents as can be done, pass out and post flyers for the website and field day/workshop, talk with other farmers and try to get a good attendance at the field day/interest in the weed management techniques on the website for the project and get some other regional farmers doing on-farm tests and or trying some of these techniques out.

    Dale Rhoads has done many of these research projects, including leading a group producer-researcher project. He served on the New Ag Network of MSU/Purdue/ILLSU, was a member of the Midwest Team Organic-a university/farmer educational project, and did research projects with university researchers and extension educators of Purdue University. He has presented at the Indiana Horticultural Congress and several other Midwestern Ag conferences. He is now located in the Western SARE district residing in Northern New Mexico near Ojo Caliente, NM.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    1. Organic farmers like myself can sometimes be especially resistant to trying new techniques. Learning to think like a farmer and not a large ‘invested in organic practices lifestyle’ gardener is the overall goal. That is to inform regional farmers of more efficient and sustainable weed management practices. “Try it, you might like it!”

    2. To perform the field trials in a manner that yields readily available results that other farmers can translate into their weed management plans. The trials will be completed by November 2012.

    3. To provide the data for those farmers from those trials at the field day in September 2012.

    4. To finesse these techniques for my own use.

    5. Add to the body of knowledge about what soils and crops the no-till in-place manipulated mulches technique works well with.

    6. Learn more about how to continue building my own soils while growing crops and share that information with other farmers and university personnel.

    7. Spend less time weeding.

    8. Get to know university researchers in my area better and build closer teamwork with other farmers and university researchers and educators.

    9. Try to begin forming a team of farmers investing in investigating these types of shared farmer trials, both formal ones like this and more on-farm trials. I would like to get two other farmers to do a similar project in 2013.

    10. Measure and report on water use/savings in each treatment to promote water savings techniques.

    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.