Developing Sustainable and New Alternative Non-chemical Weed Control Strategies for Container Nursery Growers

Project Overview

Project Type: On-Farm Research
Funds awarded in 2017: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 03/14/2019
Grant Recipient: University of Florida
Region: Southern
State: Florida
Principal Investigator:
Dr. Stephen Christopher Marble
University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences


  • Additional Plants: ornamentals


  • Crop Production: nurseries
  • Education and Training: demonstration, extension
  • Pest Management: mulches - general, mulches - killed, mulches - living, mulching - vegetative, mulching - plastic

    Proposal abstract:

    For most container nursery growers, the most costly production input is weed control due to the amount of labor needed to hand weed. Most container-grown ornamental plant producers have no postemergence herbicide options and must rely on hand weeding for control of emerged weeds. Another critical issue is that in contrast to agronomic crops, ornamental plants are sold solely based on aesthetic value, and thus weed threshold levels are virtually zero due to marketability concerns and the greater competition weeds pose in a restricted rooting environment.

    In order to reduce costs, growers must rely on the use of preemergence herbicides. While preemergence herbicides offer control, use of these materials in certain situations, specifically when applied to spaced containers, results in negative environmental consequences and is extremely inefficient. Improved weed control options are critically needed to improve the environmental and financial sustainability of this industry.

    Although somewhat limited, research has shown that use of organic mulch materials in containers can provide season-long weed control. We believe that the use of organic mulch materials when used in combination with new trackifier technology can reduce or potentially eliminate the need for preemergence herbicides in large container grown ornamental crops.

    Project objectives from proposal:

    We plan to conduct these trials as side-by-side comparisons with traditional preemergence herbicides using scientific methodology but conduct these trials on-farm to increase the visibility of this work to actual farmers.

    We also plan to conduct an annual cost assessment of traditional preemergence herbicide with the use of these mulch materials to determine the financial sustainability of these more environmentally friendly practices.

    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.