Originally published January 14 2009
Citrus Grove Weed Control Using Organic Plant Waste
by Susanne Morrone, C.N.C.
(NaturalNews) Organic citrus farmers are faced with escalating production challenges such as weed control to meet consumer demands. Most people are aware that conventionally-grown citrus crops are heavily sprayed in pre and post-harvest production, leaving measurable amounts of pesticide and herbicide residue in the fruits one might ingest. Nature, however, always provides viable, non-toxic solutions to growing challenges.
ScienceDaily reports the findings of a research team from the Botany Department at the National Research Center in Giza, Egypt. The team published results of a two-year study with various mulching applications and methods to control weeds on 15-year old mandarin trees. Egyptian mandarins grow in sandy soil where weeds compete with citrus for nutrients and water, harboring pests and host pathogens. Organically-grown Egyptian citrus fruits are exported to many countries.
The project`s lead researcher, Dr. H. F. Abouziena, remarked: "The objective of the study was to investigate the effect of plant mulches with different depths compared with synthetic mulch, hand-hoeing, cultivation and glyphosate on weed control efficacy and quantity and quality of mandarin fruits." He identified indigenous natural materials which were logically chosen and utilized: " In Egypt, rice straw is considered one of the most important plant waste problems, and cattail weed is a problem in all water canals. Waste materials such as rice straw, weeds, aquatic weeds, bark, and composted municipal green waste can provide effective weed control."
Of the various methods used, the team reported the greatest weed control (94 to 100%) with black plastic mulch and three mulch layers of rice straw or cattail. An 85% to 98% control of weeds occurred with two layers of cattail or rice straw on the soil. Plastic mulches, cattail mulch in two or three layers, or rice straw in two-layer treatments, significantly increased the fruit yield without significant differences among these superior treatments. Comparisons were made with three layers of rice straw, cultivation, glyphosate, and plastic mulch treatments. There was a significant reduction in weed density and weed biomass, but lower yield resulted than with the superior treatments. Total acidity and vitamin C were significantly lower in the unweeded control than most weeded treatments.
Dr. Abouziena concluded: "These results demonstrate that two layers of cattail or rice straw mulch could be used effectively for controlling weeds in citrus groves. This may increase their use in agriculture systems with a concomitant decrease in the need for synthetic herbicides. Further studies are needed to evaluate their side effects on beneficial organisms, diseases and insects." The researchers also cautioned producers that the higher depth of natural mulches might result in increased transport costs unless mulch materials are produced on the farm.
Natural mulches and composts provide many benefits for growers. Applying different mulches encourages different micro-organisms and contributes different nutrients. They have proven their effectiveness in improving soil structure, weed suppression, moisture conservation, improved water infiltration and helping to build natural resistance to pests and disease. Synthetic mulches derived from petroleum-based materials cause increased runoff. Warranted, significant concern continues worldwide over the use and development of stronger, more toxic cocktails of synthetic chemicals in and on our food supply. The green byword is "Waste not, Want not."
ScienceDaily (December 29, 2008)
HortScience, 43: 589-968 (2008) "Comparison of Weed Suppression and Mandarin Fruit Yield and Quality Obtained with Organic Mulches, Synthetic Mulches, Cultivation and Glyphosate"
About the authorSusanne Morrone, C.N.C., is an author, speaker and natural health educator. Her book, "The Best Little Health Book Ever," is the quintessential natural health primer. She is also included in "101 Great Ways to Improve Your Health" by Selfgrowth.com. Her mission and educational outreach is found at www.naturalhealthchat.com.
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