Cultivation – First Pass – Organic Weed Control

Your first pass with the cultivator, your
first go through is probably the most crucial time. Most farmers say that the first pass with
a cultivator takes the most care. They’re typically going a little more slowly,
keeping an eye on the young corn or soybean plant to ensure they’re not burying the crop
along with the weeds. Your first cultivation is probably your slowest
cultivation because you don’t want to cover that crop, you want to move some dirt and
you want to loosen the dirt up but if you go too fast, it’s very easy to cover up crops. Dean Schultes of Dedham of and Nelson Smith
of Brighton keep a close eye on weed growth to know when it’s time to switch from a light
tillage implement, like a rotary hoe, to a
cultivator. For me it’s basically right after I rotary
hoe if I start seeing weeds, it could be the day after I rotary hoe, is when I start. I have no set height or growth stage on corn
or soybeans, when I see the weeds its go time. Just to stay ahead of everything a little
bit. Well switching from rotary hoe to cultivator
is pretty much a call of what size the weeds are. If the weeds are still just very very small
and they just look like a hair just coming up through there or have the white root on
them, then it’s still rotary hoe time, but if they’ve gotten beyond that and they’ve
got some roots going down in there, then its cultivator time because they’re already getting
established and the rotary hoe will not take those established roots out or weed out, so
you’ve gotta get going in there with a cultivator. Beans are the more difficult crop for weed
management, so many farmers like to start cultivating early to stay ahead of the weeds. The trade-off is that they are smaller and
are more susceptible to being buried. Our first cultivation on soybeans, we like
to get out there as soon as possible without burying the beans. I start earlier than a lot of people. I probably start with beans when they’re 3
or 4 inches tall if I can The height would typically be 6 inches give
or take on that first cultivation. Sometimes even I will rotary hoe after I cultivate
because you have a lot of loose soil right next to that soybean row if you go in afterwards,
you can flick a few weeds out that are in the row, but you’ll cover some up too. or even with a tine weeder if you can get
through it, some of that loose soil that’s sitting there three inches away from the row,
you’ll push back into the row and cover up some of those tiny little weeds. Generally I’ll wait until the beans are big
enough that I know I’m not gonna cover them up and we’ll go out and hit them as soon as
we can and watch for weeds. If we’ve done a good job rotary hoeing that
will give us a little bigger window before we need to start cultivation, inter-row cultivation. Jaron says that for corn there is often not
much of a window between rotary hoeing and cultivating. Usually the first cultivation will be at V3
or V4 just so it’s tall enough that you’re not bending it over and covering it up. Usually corn grows so fast that when you get
done rotary hoeing, it’s probably ready to go with the cultivator. One of the challenges or first pass cultivating
is getting close to the crop without killing plants or clipping off leaves often referred
to as cultivator or iron blight. On the first cultivation with soybeans, the
goal is to try to get as close to the row as possible without wiping out the crop, and
trust me we wipe a lot of crop out at times too We’ll use a buffalo 8 row 36 cultivator for
first pass and then set that as close as I can to the row and still drive comfortably. We really like a buffalo cultivator, especially
in soybeans because you can set the disk hillers very tight to the rows pulling away from the
row and hooking small weeds and pulling them out before they get a chance to grow up into
the row. So first pass we’re trying to cut whatever
weeds we can, but also disturb the soil and cover up any weeds that are potentially growing
or are coming through the surface. You wanna be kind of running a fairly flat
sweep angle and digging out those small weeds, but at the same time throwing just a little
bit of loose dirt up around that plant and burying some of those real small weeds right
around the base of the soybeans. The thing I tend to watch for is make sure
I get dirt up against the plant. We do have tent shields on a buffalo cultivator,
which completely cover the row or the plants, that really helps as far as not burying those
small plants. That’s probably, especially in soybeans, that’s
probably one of the harder things to do because soybeans are generally a lot smaller than
what the corn probably would be your first pass so it’s a little bit harder to get that
dirt to just go right into the row where the soybeans are at. You wanna be watching that you are not making
a lot of slabs as well if the cultivator is running too deep or the sweep angle is pitched
too much, you can get slabs of dirt which will cause challenges and issues later on
with other cultivations or with the combine bean head.

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