Managing Weeds in Row Middles

Jim Rogers Cover Crops, Tip of the Week, weeds

By Ramdas Kanissery

It is essential to maintain a patch of weeds or vegetation in the row middles to hold the soil from eroding and, at the same time, without being a source for weed invasion into the tree rows (Figure 1). Below are some quick tips for managing the vegetation in row-middle spaces between the citrus tree rows:

Managing Weeds
Figure 1. Well-maintained vegetation in a citrus row middle

MOW DOWN TALL WEEDS IN TIME
Mowing tall-growing weeds, such as grasses, should be done before they get too big (approximately 1 to 2 feet high) and before they go to seed. Timely row-middle mowing operations before seed set will prevent seed deposition and consequent weed infestation in the tree rows. Also, keep in mind that frequent mowing of vegetation is not ideal either, as it will increase the regrowth vigor of vegetation, resulting in increased water-use potential and more dried up soil in the grove.

WIPE WITH HERBICIDES
Wiping with post-emergent herbicides like glyphosate will also help manage the growth of tall weeds in the row middles. The herbicide solution is applied to the row-middle weeds through a wet surface of wiping equipment such as a carpet wiper or a panel wiper to suppress growth and establish low-growing vegetation.

PRACTICE CHEMICAL MOWING
Consider integrating chemical application and mowing to manage the weeds in row middles. Chemical mowing consists of the use of sublethal rates of post-emergent herbicides such as glyphosate in combination with mechanical mowing. The herbicide application slows down the vegetation regrowth after the mowing operation in the row middles, thus reducing the need for frequent mowing. Care should be taken to perform the mowing one to two weeks before the herbicide application. Be sure to use a low herbicide rate for chemical mowing. Selecting a high rate will potentially kill the entire row-middle vegetation.

More information on herbicide rates for chemical mowing can be found in the Weeds chapter of the Florida Citrus Production Guide published by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences Extension.

PLANT COVER CROPS
Growing cover crops in citrus row middles has several benefits, such as minimizing soil erosion, adding organic matter and improving soil quality. Another significant advantage of planting cover crops in citrus is their contributions to vegetation management in the row middles. Lush growth of cover crops forms a physical barrier on the soil surface, provides shade and helps prevent the weed seeds from germinating or growing aggressively. Some cover crops release biochemical compounds that affect the germination and growth of weeds nearby (also known as allelopathy) and are beneficial in suppressing weeds.

ADDITIONAL RESOURCE
More information on row middle vegetation management in Florida citrus can be found here.

Ramdas Kanissery is an assistant professor at the UF/IFAS Southwest Florida Research and Education Center in Immokalee.

Managing Weeds

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