New weed control tools for smaller farms

December 6, 2011

Weed control is an important issue on vegetable farms, and it can be particularly challenging on smaller farms that lack effective mechanization.

This Partnership Grant addressed that issue and also leveraged a variety of other resources to study innovative tools that could have wide applicability to the many small vegetable farms in our region.

The seed for this project was planted when Eric Gallandt took a sabbatical in Denmark, where he collaborated with weed scientists on physical and cultural weed management research. There, he was introduced to a set of improvements to the old “wheel hoe” idea that incorporated two wheels, a toolbar, and lightweight cultivator attachments, some of which have a parallel-linkage design.

This collection of tools, called the Weed Master, represents a transfer of tractor-scale weed control implements—sweeps, rolling disks,finger, and torsion weeder —to a hand tool appropriate for a farmer with four acres or less. Gallandt got a grant from the Maine Agriculture Center to purchase and import these tools to the U.S, and a Partnership Grant then supported his evaluation of the equipment on three diversified organic vegetable farms, and allowed him to demonstrate the equipment at the Maine Agricultural Trade Show, two on-farm field days, and the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association Common Ground Fair.

Results of the equipment trials were shared through a research blog and a session on weed control tools for small farm at the 2009 Farmer-to-Farmer Conference in Maine, where Gallandt and the participating farmers summarized their experiences with these tools. These new tools alone will not solve all their weed problems, but most growers have been impressed with the intuitive adjustment of them and their fast working rates. Compared to a traditional wheel hoe, for example, at three minutes per 100 feet of row, the Weed Master took less than a minute; hand weeding took 21 minutes.

Gallandt is now working with the Weed Master manufacturer to explore the possibility of manufacturing the tool in the U.S. to increase its availability.

Want more information? See the related SARE grant:

Topics: Cultivation, Organic Agriculture, Pest Management, Physical Control, Vegetables
Related Locations: Maine, Northeast