Finger-weeding Onions at Fisher Farm

22 May 2009

We headed to the Fisher Farm in Winterport, Maine, Friday morning to meet Beth Haines, Dennis and Joe Fisher, and found perfect conditions for cultivating onions.  Hot, dry weather, level beds, and straight rows of onions.   Particularly convenient was the fact that there were two-rows per bed so it was not necessary to adjust the Weed Master for a center row and then outside rows as we had to at Peacemeal.  Weeds included crabgrass, common lambsquarters, chickweed, some larger than would be optimal, but mostly in the cotyledon to 1-leaf stage.

Beth Haines, Joe and Dennis Fisher of Fisher Farm in Winterport, ME, prepare to cultivate onions.

Beth Haines, Joe and Dennis Fisher of Fisher Farm in Winterport, ME, prepare to cultivate onions.

Dennis and Joe Fisher testing the finger weeders on onions.

Dennis and Joe Fisher testing the finger weeders on onions.

Finger weeders get close within the row and dislodge some, but certainly not all, larger weeds (e.g., 2 to 4-leaf).

Finger weeders get close within the row and dislodge some, but certainly not all, larger weeds (e.g., 2 to 4-leaf).

Long-handled, colinear hoes are the favored precision cultivating tools at the Fisher Farm.  They are sharpened to a fine edge before each use.

Long-handled, colinear hoes are the favored precision cultivating tools at the Fisher Farm. They are sharpened to a fine edge before each use.

Well-sharpened colinear hoes provide the "standard practice," that the finger weeders were matched against.

Well-sharpened colinear hoes provide the "standard practice," that the finger weeders were matched against.

Before cultivation, weed counts were made in 1/16 square meter quadrats at six locations within each bed. Post cultivation weed counts in these flagged areas were made the following day. The colinear hoe bed had an average of 45 weed seedlings per quadrat before hoeing, and 12 afterwords, a reduction of 73% in the 12 minutes it took to weed this bed (seed bar graph below). Five other beds were cultivated with the Weed Master and finger weeders, taking an average of 2 min 30 seconds per bed. Weed control efficacy for these treatments ranged from 44 to 62% (avg. 55%).

Thus, the standard practice of precision colinear hoeing was more effective, but the improved weed control was not proportional to the additional time input.

The very high working speed of the finger weeders was impressive and, combined with subsequent hand weeding, could improve overall weed control with out additional labor, or maintain a similar level of weed control with less time commitment.

Weed density in onions before and after cultivation

Weed density in onions before and after cultivation

Fisher Farm, Winterport Maine

Fisher Farm, Winterport Maine

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