Using Conservation Tillage in Organic Systems

Organic production is often thought to be aggressive on the soil, mostly because weed management requires heavy reliance on mechanical tools.

However, soil operations for weed control can be done with equipment that minimizes impact on erosion and compaction.

For Pre-Plant or Post-Harvest Weed Control:

The undercutter-sweep can be used pre-plant and post-harvest.

The rotary harrow is used for pre-plant weed management and seedbed preparation tool. It is useful to break down the clods following a pass with the undercutter.

For In-Crop Weed Control:

A high-residue rotary hoe can be used in crop for control of small seedling crops, up to about 12” height. You will obtain optimal weed control if you use the rotary hoe in a moist soil, with a dry weather forecast.

The inter-row cultivator is a tool used for weed control used in row crops: corn, beans… Using it in small grains would require wider spacings (15” instead of 10”), and a precision guidance system to keep the shanks and shovels out of the crop rows. Timing and soil conditions are also essential when using a cultivator, especially in small seedling crops: used too early, or under dry conditions, soil can be overthrown and bury the crop.

Undercutter Sweep Blade
Undercutter Sweep Blade
Undercutter-soil impact
Soil after undercutter pass
Rotary harrow - the angle optimizes soil uniformization
Rotary harrow – the angle optimizes soil uniformization
Rotary Hoe for in-crop weed management of small crop seedlings.
Rotary Hoe for in-crop weed management of small crop seedlings
Sensor for precision guidance on inter-row cultivator
Sensor for precision guidance on inter-row cultivator
Inter-row cultivator in wheat rows. Note the back center wheel used for guidance assistance
Inter-row cultivator in wheat rows. Note the back center wheel used for guidance assistance
Washington State University