Published Aug 11, 2011

Weed Control: A Balance between Steel and Herbicides

By Tomoko Ogawa

Just a day after heavy storms hit the area in July, about 20 people gathered at Craig and Deb Fleishman’s Cardinal Farms near Minburn.

After enjoying a delicious meal prepared by Picket Fence Creamery, Craig took us to see the soybean field where he is conducting a trial to measure weed density and soybean yield to compare the effectiveness of cultivation versus herbicides for weed control in soybeans grown using a ridge till planting method.

Craig then showed us his cultivation equipment.  Craig has been ridge-tilling for many years. He discussed how important it is to decrease “deposits” of weed seeds to the soil seed “bank.” As Craig explained making deposits into this bank account is the opposite of what we want in farming. Over-drafting is the best route—continue letting weeds germinate but kill them using Steel and Herbicides to decrease their chances of a “deposit” into the weed seed “bank.”At the end of the field day, Craig shared his decision chart that describes the balance scale of herbicide and steel in ridge-till, from 100% steel and no herbicide to 100% herbicide and no steel.  100% herbicide and no steel might work for areas with high rainfall, as it does not require irrigation. But it needs good drainage. On the other hand 100% steel and no herbicide would be suited for areas with lower rainfall. The balance depends on the weather and Craig’s goal is to be in between, 50-50  steel and herbicide. Of course, there are other considerations including costs and profitability, production practices (organic, non-GMO, GMO, etc.) and the environmental considerations (soil erosion, increased compaction, etc.)  to determine the balance between the  two different methods for controlling weeds.