When It Comes to Profitability and Crop Yield, Weed Suppression is an Important Discussion

Farming profitability is always an exciting topic. Irrigation, seed selection, and even crop management all play important roles in your bottom line, but weed suppression should be on the list, as well. The ability to keep weeds at bay by suppressing their growth and preventing the spread of seeds is vital to your profitability, and there are a few different ways to do just that.

Competitive Crops

Herbicides have long been farmers’ best hope against invasive weeds that keep nutrients and moisture from reaching their crops. However, as time goes by, more and more weeds have evolved to become herbicide-resistant, meaning that even the best defenses can’t keep weeds at bay. In Australia, farmers are using competitive crops to thwart the growth of weeds and suppress their germination. In return, these farmers are enjoying better yields and more profitability without the need for costly herbicides.

Narrower Row Spacing

In order to make crops “competitive”, farmers must consider creating a tighter canopy that stops sunlight from reaching weeds. Though ultra-narrow rows can negate any yield gains realized via tighter spacing, there is a middle ground. Greg Condon of Grassroots Agronomy, located in Australia, claims that farmers can benefit from tighter canopies and narrower spacing by simply examining their existing equipment. He suggests that farmers space their crops as narrowly as possible without exceeding the limitations of their existing farming systems. Later, when it’s time to replace equipment, farmers can plan for even tighter configurations.

The Best Crops for Shading

The premise behind creating tighter crops is creating a tighter canopy, in turn. This means that competitive crops are those that have the best chance to completely cover the ground below, blocking sunlight from weeds. What’s more, when spacing green crops closer together, Condon claims soil’s moisture retention is enhanced, which further boosts yields and profitability. Green crops have the best effect; cereals and grains have the worst. Crops like soybeans are excellent at essentially “smothering” weeds; other crops, such as wheat, grow prostrate and do very little to provide much canopy or shade.

Harvest Weed Seed Control

Another consideration to keep in mind is harvest weed seed control, which prevents weeds from becoming more widespread throughout a field. Farmers in Australia have found that foregoing the narrow windrow burning and instead using a chaff-lining chute to deposit chaff and weed seeds in a thin band behind the harvester keeps weed seeds in very close quarters, causing them to inevitably rot or be smothered by the following season’s crop. Controlling weed seed spread during harvesting reduces weed growth in future seasons, and with every season that passes, weeds become less problematic.

Farmers are always looking for new ways to enhance yield and crop profitability, and while many remain focused on choosing the right seed and utilizing the right irrigation techniques, farmers in Australia are focusing their efforts on weed control. Herbicide-resistant weeds can have a detrimental effect on crops, but when you can utilize narrower spacing and the proper harvest techniques, it is possible to stop weeds in their tracks.