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Grown Here at Home: Ways farmers manage weeds

Published: Jul. 20, 2020 at 7:32 AM EDT
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (WDBJ) - “Most farmers will tell you the only good weed is a dead weed,” said Weed Science Specialist Michael Flessner.

Researchers at Virginia Tech are looking at ways to tackle weeds in a field near the university’s campus.

“We were weed-free and no vegetation was here. We planted the corn, we’ve been irrigating it and had some rain. We’re letting the weeds come up and then we’re going to evaluate some different herbicides for control of the weeds that you see coming up,” Michael explained.

Michael says one benefit of using herbicides is they’re able to treat the specific weed trying to germinate in the crop. But with them come environmental concerns. That’s why Michael says there’s an economic incentive for farmers to use as little as possible.

“The more they spray, the more expensive that is and the less profit they make at the end of the year,” Michael said.

One way to get rid of weeds without using herbicides involves cover crops.

“In Virginia we have some incentive programs to plant cover crops, which is a crop that we would not harvest, but would plant in the fall. It grows. It produces biomass and if we lay that down that can act as a mulch, just like it would at your house, and you can suppress your weeds that way and plant your crop into that,” Michael explained.

Interestingly enough, one of the best ways to tackle weeds, is the crop itself.

“As the crop comes up, and the leaves canopy over and shade out the rest of the field, that’s really what helps us get our weed control through the rest of the season after that point,” Michael explained.

Whether a farmer uses organic or conventional methods, Michael says, “Farmers love the land, they cherish the land. They want to pass that on to the next generation, and I think every farmer is really doing what they think is best for the land.”

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