Carrot is an economically important crop in Michigan with limited control options for escaped and late-emerging weeds. Powell amaranth and horseweed are the most troublesome weeds, which escape from early management practices and cause significant issues at carrot harvest and reduce yield. Electrical weeding eliminates weeds that are taller in height than the crop canopy and has the potential to reduce the amount of between-row cultivation, herbicide application, and hand labor needed to achieve weed control. Upon contact with the applicator electrode, electric current is conducted through the weed and dissipated from the roots into the surrounding soil. The key advantages of electrical weeding are that it is chemical free, systemically kills the plant roots, and does not disturb the soil. While electrical weed control is gaining momentum as a promising new weed control method, fundamental knowledge of the technology’s impact on weed control, crop safety, and soil health are lacking. At present, it is unknown what consequences this influx of energy has on soil microbes and nutrients. Therefore, field study will be conducted in carrot to evaluate the effect of electrical weeding on weed control, crop safety, soil microbes and nitrogen availability. These results will shed more light on potential damage to or stimulation of soil microbes/nutrients caused by electrical weeding and enhance the knowledge around the use of electricity-based weed control in carrot production systems. Greater knowledge of agroecosystem energetics and interactions at the plant/soil level will enable the electrical weed control industry to advance their technology to better serve the needs of producers. These results will be shared with growers through professional meetings, on-farm field days, and extension publications.
Project objectives from proposal:
Learning outcomes for the vegetable grower community will include:
- Greater familiarity with how the electrical weeding works and its potential in an integrated weed management (IWM) plan for weed control in carrot
- Impact of the electrical weeder on carrot crop yield and quality
- Enhanced insight into how electrical weeding influences soil microbes and nutrients.
As electrical weeding finds greater use in both conventional and organic systems, vegetable growers will for the first time have empirical data into its impact on soil food web functioning with which they can use to refine their weed control strategies. The expected learning outcomes should mature into the following action outcomes:
- The results from this study will be beneficial for carrot growers and help them to improve the profitability and sustainability of their weed management programs.
- Growers may choose to adjust management plans in light of trends in data that reveal soil biology effects from electrical weeding
- Manufacturers and farmers alike will be spurred towards further innovation to reduce any off-target damage while retaining the benefits.
- Farmers will be empowered to take action to improve their soil biology through informed management practices, whether pertaining to electrical weeding or as a more holistic, whole-farm approach.