Farmers tell how cultivation succeeds with integrated systems
BELTSVILLE, Md. Weed control demands time, labor and expense for every
farmer every year. Steel in the Field: A Farmer's Guide to Weed Management
Tools shows how today's implements and techniques can handle weeds while
reducing or eliminating herbicides. In practical language and layout, the
128-page book presents what farmers and researchers have learned in the
last 20 years about cutting weed-control costs through improved
cultivation tools, cover crops and new cropping rotations.
Steel in the Field, a publication by the USDA's Sustainable
Agriculture Network (SAN), charts new ground. It is the first
tool-centered book to combine farmer accounts, university research and
commercial agricultural engineering expertise. It directly tackles the
hard questions of how to comply with erosion-prevention plans, how to
remain profitable and how to manage residue and moisture loss. It also
addresses variables such as field size and uncooperative weather.
"This book addresses the four main concerns that farmers have about
mechanical weed control: cost, effectiveness, dependability and soil
impact," says Joe Johnson, a Mississippi State University agronomist.
"The field equipment sections are the most descriptive that I have ever
Farmers -- 22 of them -- do a lot of the talking, sharing their
struggles and successes with tools, weeds, herbicides and cropping
systems. Their advice ranges from the specific (setting mini-disks 0.75
inches deep and 2 inches away from 2-inch tall plants) to the general,
such as one farmer's estimate of the correct speed for using his coil-tine
weeder: "as fast as you can hang on is fine."
Mechanical weed control works in many situations. The book highlights
successful examples on very different farms: no-till cotton in Georgia,
corn and soybeans across the Corn Belt, safflower in Utah, wheat in Texas
and Oregon, barley in North Dakota, vegetables in Massachusetts and
California, and lots more.
Steel in the Field covers a broad range of tools. Original line
drawings accompany technical summaries of 37 implements and 18
accessories. They include rotary hoes, wide-blade sweep plows,
high-residue cultivators, automatic guidance systems and back-pack flame
weeders presented in three groupings: agronomic row crops, horticultural
crops and dryland crops.
Each tool entry describes how it works and lists its recommended tractor
horsepower, ground speed and list price. To compare the field use of
dissimilar tools with a common yardstick, the book uses two graphics. One
shows the size of crop where the tool is intended to work, the other the
size of weeds it is designed to control.
Farmer accounts highlight tool use, management and adaptation by
successful growers. Each opens with a summary of farm location and size,
cash crops, tillage style, cover crops, soil types, rainfall, basic
weed-management strategies, and the implements used. Within these
accounts comes the critical, hands-on information that can transform a
piece of steel into a well-functioning tool. Timing is emphasized
repeatedly. Knowing when to put a tool in the field, how to adjust it and
how fast to pull it are learned skills that make up part of the "art" of
mechanical weed control.
Practices that suppress or prevent weeds are especially important on these
farms. Reducing overall weed pressure makes it more likely that mechanical
or flame controls can stifle weeds with lower or no herbicide use. Main
factors are winter and summer cover crops, delayed planting and
weed-fighting crop rotations. The farmers frequently mention the benefits
from improved soil health and soil organic matter.
An appendix lists contact information for weed specialists and for 105
equipment sources, including specialized tractors for cultivation. The
Sustainable Agriculture Network is the outreach arm of USDA's Sustainable
Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) program, which works to increase
knowledge about and help farmers and ranchers adopt practices that are
economically viable, environmentally sound and socially responsible.
Outreach materials are available at SAN's electronic homepage at:
To order the $18 book, send your check or purchase order to: Sustainable
Agriculture Publications, Hills Building, University of Vermont,
Burlington VT 05405-0082. Please include mailing address, daytime phone
number, and this reference number E1197. To inquire about rush orders,
international orders or bulk discounts, call (802) 656-0471. We also
accept orders via e-mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) or FAX (802-656-4656)
PROVIDING they include a purchase order number. EDITORS: To request a
review copy, call (301) 504-6422 or email email@example.com
Andy Clark, Ph.D.
c/o AFSIC, Room 304
National Agricultural Library
10301 Baltimore Ave.
Beltsville, MD 20705-2351
To Unsubscribe: Email firstname.lastname@example.org with "unsubscribe sanet-mg".
To Subscribe to Digest: Email email@example.com with the command