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Weed Control and Plastic Mulches

Chuck Bornt, Team Leader, Extension Vegetable Specialist
Eastern New York Commercial Horticulture

May 9, 2018

As the weather warms up and plastic mulches are being applied to get ready for our summer crop plantings, the question of what to do about weed control in the beds and between the beds is a common one that I get.  Unfortunately, I don't have a silver bullet for you but have a couple of thoughts.  First, there are a few herbicides that are labeled for use under the plastic on a few crops.  However, the recommended use is to make the beds first, apply the herbicides and then lay the plastic mulch which is not usually how we manage our plasticulture systems - as we normally like to bed and mulch all in the same pass.  I have yet to see anyone modify their mulch layer to apply herbicides while laying their mulches (if anyone has, please let me know I would love to see it!).  The other thing to consider is that many of these products are very sensitive to moisture and often require it to activate them. Lastly, I worry about injury to our crop when using these herbicides, especially as many of you are using water-wheel transplanters which could in theory reactivate the herbicide and concentrate it around the rootball.  I think educating your employees planting to make the smallest hole possible and making sure that plant gets off to a good start may be just as good as the pre-plant herbicides!  However, if you want to try some herbicides under mulches this is what is labeled to my knowledge:

Herbicides Labeled for Use Under Plastic Mulch

Herbicide

Crop(s)

Devrinol

Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant

Prefar

Eggplant, Peppers, Cucumbers, Melons, Squash

Sandea

Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Melons, Squash, Watermelon (need to wait 7 days after application to plant crop)

Prowl H2O

Eggplant

 

So the other question that comes up is how to control weeds between the rows and again, I don't have a silver bullet, but there are certainly more options!  The first thing that I would tell you is I do not recommend applying any of these materials broadcast over the top of your mulch before planting!  I think you are taking a risk that even after a couple of rains, some of the herbicide may remain on the plastic and could concentrate in the planting hole after you've planted with a rain - especially in cases where beds are not uniformly full and you have dips in your beds where water can gather on the plastic.  I think the best method is to fit the field, lay your plastic and then using either very directed sprays or better yet, a shielded sprayer, apply the herbicides between the beds, just letting the spray contact the shoulders of the bed.  I've seen some homemade shielded units made from plastic totes to old wooden apple crates!

My rule of thumb for row middle applications is, if the material is labeled on the crop, then it can be used in the row middles too unless otherwise specified on the label that it cannot be used between the rows.  Using a pre-emergent or combination of pre-emergents before transplanting is the best strategy in my mind as you minimize the risk of drift and hitting your crop.  However, if you can't get right in there to apply them after laying your mulch or planting and weeds are already starting to grow, I would recommend tank mixing in a contact herbicide such as Gramoxone (or other formulations of the active ingredient paraquat) to your pre-emergent materials as a shielded, directed spray.  Why paraquat instead of glyphosate (Round-Up etc.)?  Paraquat will only kill what it comes in contact with (so coverage is essential).  So if a little drift moves onto your plant, it will only kill the area that it comes in contact with and leave some tan spots.  Whereas a small amount of glyphosate will translocate and potentially kill or really hurt your crop and I'd rather be safe than sorry. 

Below is a list of some herbicides that could be used between rows of plastic mulch on various crops.  This is not to be used in place of a label as in some instances a product may be labeled on some but not all crops in the same family (for example when I say brassicas, that includes cabbage, broccoli, etc., but these products may not be labeled on all members of the brassica family so please read the label before using).

Herbicides Labeled for Between Rows of Plastic Mulches  on Various Vegetable Crops

Herbicide

Crop(s)

Dual Magnum (metolachlor)

Tomatoes, Peppers, Cucurbits, some Brassicas, Lettuce, Onion

Prefar (bensulide)

Eggplant, Peppers, Cucumbers, Melons, Squash, Brassicas, Lettuce

Sandea (halosulfuron)

Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Melons, Squash, Watermelon, Peppers, Eggplant

Prowl H2O (pendimethalin)

Eggplant, Pepper, Tomato, Onion, Brassicas

Reflex (fomesafen)

Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplant,

Dimetric, Sencor (metribuzin)

Tomatoes

Strategy (clomazone + ethalfluralin)

Cucumber, Melon, Pumpkin, Squash

Image 1Shielded sprayer manufactured by Crop Care (Photo: http://www.cropcareequipment.com)

image 2Hooded sprayer manufactured by Micron Sprayers Ltd and Enviromist Industries Pty.




more crops
Apples

Apples

Apricots

Apricots

Asparagus

Asparagus

Beets

Beets

Blueberries

Blueberries

Broccoli

Broccoli

Brussels Sprouts

Brussels Sprouts

Cabbage

Cabbage

Carrots

Carrots

Cauliflower

Cauliflower

Cherries

Cherries

Cucumbers

Cucumbers

Dry Beans

Dry Beans

Eggplant

Eggplant

Ethnic Vegetables

Ethnic Vegetables

Garlic

Garlic

Grapes

Grapes

Horseradish

Horseradish

Kohlrabi

Kohlrabi

Leeks

Leeks

Lettuce / Leafy Greens

Lettuce / Leafy Greens

Melons

Melons

Nectarines

Nectarines

Onions

Onions

Parsnips

Parsnips

Peaches

Peaches

Pears

Pears

Peas

Peas

Peppers

Peppers

Plums

Plums

Potatoes

Potatoes

Pumpkins / Gourds

Pumpkins / Gourds

Radishes

Radishes

Raspberries / Blackberries

Raspberries / Blackberries

Rhubarb

Rhubarb

Rutabaga

Rutabaga

Snap Beans

Snap Beans

Squash - Summer

Squash - Summer

Squash- Winter

Squash- Winter

Strawberries

Strawberries

Sweet Corn

Sweet Corn

Sweet Potatoes

Sweet Potatoes

Tomatoes

Tomatoes

Turnips

Turnips

more crops

Upcoming Events

Champlain Valley Tree Fruit Grower Input Meeting

November 30, 2022
Plattsburgh, NY

We need your input!  Mike will be holding a Champlain Valley tree fruit grower input session on November 30 in Plattsburgh at the Clinton County CCE office. Mike will review his 2022 research and extension activities. We would then like to hear from you to set priorities for future tree fruit research and education needs, and to get your input for speakers for our 2023 winter meetings. 

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How Profitable Will My New Orchard Investment Be? Zoom Series

December 5, 2022 : Looking at the Big Financial Picture for Your Farm

Your farm's big-3 financial records (balance sheet, income statement and statement of cash flow) and how to use them to assess your overall financial situation. This information will help you assess what types of investments are likely to be viable for your farm business and whether or not you are likely to be able to use credit to finance that investment.  We will specifically cover Farm Profitability, Cash Flow, and Key Financial Ratios.

December 6, 2022 : Business Strategy and the Farm Value Chain

How do you create value?  How do you differentiate yourself from your competitors?  In other words - what is your farm's business strategy?  Your investments should be in line with your strategy.  Different business strategies will result in investments in different parts of the Farm Business Value Chain.  Farm Business Value Chain - full range of activities needed to create a product or service.

December 7, 2022 : Using Your Farm's Financial Data to Make Management Decisions

Identifying the Enterprises in Your Value Chain.  Your Profit Centers and Cost Centers.  We will cover: Direct vs Indirect Costs and Cost Allocation and Variable vs Fixed Costs and Relevant Range (when does a fixed cost become a variable cost?)

December 8, 2022 : Operating Budgets and Strategic Planning

Operating budgets are the overall financial plan for the business.  You can use a budget based on your current situation as the base to model new scenarios.

December 12, 2022 : Enterprise Budgets

It is more time-consuming to develop detailed budgets for your enterprises, but it is worthwhile to do this for area where you are considering making major investments.  We will demonstrate how to move from an operating budget to an enterprise budget to model specific scenarios within that enterprise. 

December 13, 2022 : 5 Step Decision-making Process for Capital Projects and Long-term Investments

Introduces a structured process for a manager to go through to decide among options for long-term investments, projects or changes to the farm business.

December 14, 2022 : Cost Volume Profit Analysis and Sensitivity Analysis

As you change your prices, volume of sales or costs of production how does your profit change?  What is your break-even point and what output level do you need to achieve a target income? We will also cover sensitivity analysis that will help you see how your results will vary over a range of likely scenarios from best case to worst case.  This will help you assess the riskiness of your plan.

December 15, 2022 : Capital Budgeting Tools - Net Present Value, Internal Rate of Return, and Payback Period

Capital budgeting is defined as the process used to determine whether capital assets are worth investing in. it's the process of asking: is an asset worth the resources it requires?  Capital assets are usually long-term investments like new equipment, facilities, and other infrastructure upgrades. By incorporating strategically planned capital budgeting into their financial processes, companies can more effectively determine and prioritize which projects, programs and other investment assets could be most financially beneficial in the long-term.

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SAVE THE DATES

December 13 - December 15, 2022February 2 - February 8, 2023February 21 - February 23, 2023

Save the Dates for the following Winter Meetings:

  • The New England Vegetable & Fruit Conference, DoubleTree Hotel and Conference Center, Manchester, New Hampshire, December 13-15  https://newenglandvfc.org/registration/
  • NOFA NY Virtual Winter Conference, February 2-5, 2023 https://nofany.org/2023conference/
  • Empire State Expo, Oncenter Syracuse, February 6-7 2023 https://nysvga.org/expo/information/
  • Becker Forum, Oncenter Syracuse, February 8, 2023  https://nysvga.org/expo/information/
  • Eastern NY Commercial Horticulture Program Regional Winter Meeting, The Desmond Hotel, Albany, February 21-23, 2023  

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Announcements

NEW ENYCHP BLOG

Visit the new CCE ENYCHP Blog at https://blogs.cornell.edu/enychp/.  New information is continuously being added and you can search for information using key words.  The blog is still in its infancy, but we are working hard to make it a useful resource for our growers!

ENYCHP Public Events Calendar



2022 Spotted Wing Drosophila Monitoring/Management

All berry farmers are watching for monitoring reports that indicate Spotted Wing Drosophila (SWD) adults are in their region. Mid-season berry crops should be sprayed as soon as berries begin to ripen unless you've elected to use insect exclusion netting.

- For general information about SWD, and to enroll for free monitoring reports, visit the Cornell SWD blog https://blogs.cornell.edu/swd1/.
- Click here for the 2022 Quick Guide for Pesticide Management.
- For some great instructional videos and fact sheets on insect exclusion netting, visit the University of Vermont's Ag Engineering blog.


Resources from CCE ENYCHP!

We are developing new ways to connect with the CCE ENYCHP team this year! We have a Youtube page located at this link. Check out videos on Table Grape Production, Pest Updates and the 20 Minute Ag Manager - in 4 Minutes series

We have a Facebook Page here as well as an Instagram page. We keep these places updated with current projects, events, and other interesting articles and deadlines.

There are also text alerts available. Fruit and vegetable farmers in 17 Eastern NY counties can now receive real time alerts on high risk disease and pest outbreaks texted directly to their cell phone. The Eastern NY Commercial Horticulture program, which is supported by local Cornell Cooperative Extension associations, will now offer text alerts to those that enroll in our program in 2019. 

The text alerts will be reserved for important crop alerts that could impact management decisions immediately. For instance, if there were an outbreak of Late Blight in the area, this would be transmitted to vegetable growers.

Farmers can choose the crop for which they wish to receive updates. Additionally they can request that Ag Business Alerts be sent to them. These alerts might include due dates for crop insurance deadlines, market opportunities etc.

If you have questions, please contact enychp@cornell.edu


Podcasts

Winter Greens Grower Interviews in Northern New York

October 22, 2022
In this episode, vegetable specialist Elisabeth Hodgdon interviews Lindsey Pashow, ag business development and marketing specialist with the Cornell Cooperative Extension Harvest New York team. They discuss findings from a series of interviews with winter greens producers in northern New York. Lindsey shares production and marketing challenges associated with growing winter greens in this cold and rural part of the state, success stories and advice from growers, and tips for those interested in adding new crop enterprises to their operation.

Funding for this project was provided by the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program. The episode was edited by Miles Todaro of the ENYCHP team.

Resources:
• Crop enterprise budget resources available from Penn State Extension (field and tunnel vegetables: https://extension.psu.edu/small-scale-field-grown-and-season-extension-budgets), UMass Extension (winter spinach budgets: https://ag.umass.edu/vegetable/outreach-project/improving-production-yield-of-winter-greens-in-northeast and field vegetables: https://ag.umass.edu/vegetable/fact-sheets/crop-production-budgets), and Cornell Cooperative Extension (high tunnel vegetables: https://blogs.cornell.edu/hightunnels/economics/sample-budgets-spreadsheets/). Use these budgets as templates when developing your own crop enterprise budget.
• The Organic Farmer’s Business Handbook, by Richard Wiswall
• The Winter Harvest Handbook, by Eliot Coleman

For questions about the winter greens project discussed in this podcast, reach out to Lindsey Pashow (lep67@cornell.edu) or Elisabeth Hodgdon(eh528@cornell.edu).

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