Sustainable Weed Control: In-Row Weed Cultivation Strategies for Midwest Vegetable Growers

Project Overview

Project Type: Graduate Student
Funds awarded in 2019: $10,738.00
Projected End Date: 05/01/2021
Grant Recipient: Michigan State University
Region: North Central
State: Michigan
Graduate Student:
Faculty Advisor:
Daniel Brainard
Michigan State University


Not commodity specific


  • Pest Management: physical control
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture

    Proposal abstract:

    Weed management is a yearly struggle for vegetable growers. Conventional growers struggle with the cost and declining efficacy of herbicides while organic growers seek weed control strategies to reduce the high labor costs of hand weeding. Mechanical weeding tools can effectively target in-row weeds which are most competitive with productive vegetable crops. Proper implementation can greatly improve crop yield and reduce labor costs. Vegetable growers working with in-row tools have expressed enthusiasm for the technology, but obstacles remain to implementation and effective use.

    This project was designed by consulting farmers and will use green beans and table beets to identify and demonstrate best-practices for in-row cultivation tools. Tools will be trialed under various tillage and residue conditions to represent the varied soil conditions in which growers operate. Tools will be used individually and in combinations to look for synergies when used together in the same cultivation pass. The efficacy of each tool will be judged by collecting a wide range of weed and crop survival data in order to gain a complete understanding of the tools’ capabilities and limitations. Throughout the trials we will confer with our two Consulting Growers. Our trials will generate useful and detailed information on the ways that each tool affects weeds and crops under different soil conditions.  In addition, we will evaluate differences in beet varieties’ tolerance to cultivation tools with the goal of reducing crop injury.

    This information will be shared with growers and extension agents through field-days, presentations, an extension publication, and an article.   Ultimately, we anticipate that results from our work will improve production and profitability on both conventional and organic farms. 

    Project objectives from proposal:

    Learning Outcomes:

    1. Vegetable farmers will have a greater awareness of in-row weed control technologies and practices.
    2. Vegetable farmers, extension educators, and researchers will have a better understanding of how different in-row weed control technologies can be calibrated for various soil conditions.

    Action Outcomes:

    1. Vegetable farmers will be empowered to try alternative weed management strategies and evaluate them in the context of their specific production system.
    2. Vegetable farmers will make in-row weed management decisions that will reduce pesticide use and improve soil health.
    3. Researchers and extension educators will make well-rounded recommendations regarding in-row weed cultivation strategies.

    Environment/Production Outcomes

    1. Vegetable farmers will have the potential of greater profits as a result of reduced weeding costs and higher yields due to reduced weed interference.
    2. Environmental sustainability will be improved through potential reductions in herbicide use and preservation of healthy soils.
    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.