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.
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.