Row Crop Cultivation – Michael Miller
Row crop cultivation can be a very good weed control technique. It works well to control weeds that are growing between rows of crops; one of the main things that make row cultivation good is that it can be used when the weeds are rather large (up to 15cm tall). Most other in crop weed control techniques that are used work best when weeds are only at the cotyledon stage. With that being said row crop cultivation solves weed problems that could be “out of control” because of this techniques aggressive approach. All that row crop cultivation means is that it is a cultivator that is set up to cultivate down the large inter-rows in crops that are typically row crops; it turns the soil and breaks up the weeds. Producers who grow row crops use this technique; some row crops that row cultivators are used in are corn, soybeans, potato, field bean, and many other horticulture crops (PLSC 234 class notes, 2014).
Row crop cultivation works best when the field does not have too much residue from the previous crop because if your cultivator gets plugged up with crop residue. This can build up and begin to drag and can possibly damage the crop that is growing and also not penetrate the soil well and defeat the purpose of killing weeds. But some of the new cultivators are better at dealing with crop residue and can still work fairly well in high residue fields. Row cultivation also works well when the weeds are bigger because it allows you to kill more of the weed population and it is still effective whereas many other in crop tillage practices must be done when the weeds are small.
The best way to avoid problems when using row crop cultivation is to ensure that you have a good GPS system not only when cultivating a field but also when it is being seeded. If you are not perfectly straight in the field and your GPS lines get out by a small amount you can start having problems with damaging your crops. Not only is the GPS important but also knowing your depth your cultivator is working at and understanding the rooting systems of the crops being grown so that you can avoid damaging roots.
Row crop cultivation is not a very expensive weed control technique. Row crop cultivators are not overly expensive and even a normal cultivator can be converted to a row crop cultivator. Usually one pass with a row crop cultivator is enough to control the weeds depending on the growing season; if it is a wet year you may need to make more than one pass because there will be more weeds. But if it is a dry season then turning the soil to control weeds can not be as beneficial because drying out the soil to control the weeds may not give you as good of a yield increase if water is limiting. You also need to take into consideration the fact that cultivation can cause erosion in some cases and can see yield losses later on down the road if erosion is bad.
The thing that I like about row crop cultivation is the fact that you can be fairly aggressive with weed control. I think that in irrigated farms where water is never a limiting factor to crop growth that row crop cultivation is a great weed control method.
PLSC 234 Class notes. Brenda Frick. 2014
Crop Cultivators Textbook. Chapter 28. Accessed online: http://bsesrv214.bse.vt.edu/Grisso/Ext/CH_28_MWPS_Cultivators.pdf