By Janan Lenzy, Information Systems Coordinator

The proliferation of weeds on farmland can impede the growth of crops and forage. As the climate continues to change, longer seasons and warmer temperatures will likely encourage the propagation of invasive species. There are a number of methods by which farmers and ranchers can combat weed pressures. Here on the Climate Column, we have already discussed mechanical and chemical weed control methods. An additional strategy is altering planting routines, such as planting dates and crop rotations, to outcompete weeds.

Timing plays a key role in all aspects of agricultural operations, from when to plant and harvest crops or even when to rotate cattle out of pastures. As climate change alters normal established weather patterns and facilitates weed growth, time can also function as a risk management tool in the form of delaying or diversifying planting dates.

Diversified planting – or crop rotations – is the practice of alternating planting during all growing seasons, such as planting soybeans following planted and harvested corn. Implementing crop rotations allows crops to occupy soil space and nutrients approximately year-round, thus inhibiting the establishment of unwanted competition. Even if weeds do successfully germinate, crops will be in a more mature state and will like be more able to suppress weed growth by blocking access to sunlight. Alternatively, delaying seeding dates allows weeds to sprout and be easily identified. This makes them isolated targets and removal techniques can then be applied without harming the development of crops.

Another method that can be administered in conjunction with strategic seeding dates is the spacing of seedbed rows. Decreasing amount of space between rows increases the density of canopy cover and, consequently, the amount of shade given off by crops. Limited sunlight presents unsuitable conditions for weed species, hindering their growth.

Altered timing is a weed management strategy that can save producers money on inputs. Thoroughly understanding growing seasons and ideal growing conditions of crops, forage, and weeds will better equip farmers and ranchers to alter land conditions to promote sustainability and resilience of desired species. Additionally, combining these practices with mechanical and chemical applications strengthens the potential success of eradicating weed establishment on lands.

Have you used time as a weed management strategy on your land operation? Was it effective in suppressing weed growth? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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