Subtropical Fruit Crops Research & Education
University of California
Subtropical Fruit Crops Research & Education

Posts Tagged: malva

Don't Fight It, Bite It

Rain is unusual in that it germinates weed seeds and then the need to manage them in some fashion arises. Many subtropical tree growers do not like the potential impact of pre-emergent herbicides on tree growth due to potential damage to shallow roots. Lemon growers rely fairly heavily on the post-emergent glyphosate, especially since there are cheap generic versions available. I don't know of many avocado growers who use a pre-emergent, using the natural mulching effects of fallen leaves, introduced mulch, the natural shading of the canopies and glyphosate.

I am not aware of any field studies that have shown that pre-emergents can cause root damage or reduction of tree growth or yield. There are a number of registered chemicals with different modes of action, so one would expect to see more use as practiced in other tree crops, but there is a reluctance that is based on some possible damage to trees. So, a lot of glyphosate is used and to some extent another material, glufosinate, is also used in citrus.

One of the issues that has arisen with glyphosate use has been the resistance of some weed species to this material. There are some thirty-seven species of resistant weeds in the world. In California orchards, the biggies are Hairy Fleabane, Horseweed and Johnson grass. Resistance means that you can spray the plants, even in their small stages and there's little or no effect. A non-resistant species would just wither, turn yellow and die down to the roots.

There are always plants like horsetail or purslane which have a surface that does not absorb material very well. They appear to be resistant, but aren't. Once you use the maximum dose, with a spreader-sticker or another adjuvant, the herbicide gets into the plant and it dies. Also, the key is timing, young plants being much more susceptible than bigger plants with a less absorptive surface.

This year, though with all the rains, there've been calls about not just horseweed being tough to get, but also nutsedge. Nutsedge, as far as I know, has no documented resistance, but it does have a waxy surface that gets thicker with the age of the plant. With all the weeds, people have gotten behind and the weeds have gotten out of hand and the older plants are harder to spray out. It takes more tact to get at them when they get older.

Nutsedge also reproduces from swollen underground stems called tubers or “nuts”. They aren't nuts – seeds – and some people mistake them for a grass, which they are not. They are a sedge. They reproduce primarily through the “nut” and they form lots of “nutlettes”, each of which can form a new plant. If you pull the plant up and don't get all those nutlettes, you are actually increasing the number of plants that will form. It is tricky to deal with and a good thorough spraying can control them, if done at the right stage.

It turns out that these nuts are eaten by lots of animals – pigs, chickens, humans. In the South, pigs and chickens have been used to clear fields of nutsedge before planting rice. The presents of nutsedge around the world is quite likely due to humans having spread it around the world as a food. A poor person's nut.

So, this brings me to the title of this article. Why not grow it for sale? Intercrop it with lemon.  Drip irrigate the nutsedge separate from the trees and figure out the pesticide schedule and other management issues and there's a new crop for sale. Foraging for malva, nettle, mustard, pursalane, dandelions and other unconventional edible plants has become a big deal in urban agriculture. You see “wild plants” for sale in the farmers markets. Euell Gibbons has become not just fashionable but commercial. Kale has taken the country by storm. Who would have thought it?

Root System of Yellow Nutsedge

nutsedge nuts
nutsedge nuts

Posted on Wednesday, July 19, 2017 at 6:30 AM
Tags: alternative crops (12), Gibbons (1), indigenous crops (1), malva (2), mustard (1), native crops (2), nutsedge (1), purslane (1), specialty crops (13), weeds (32)

Organic Herbicides in Orchards


Using organic herbicides in production fields and non-crop areas.

The forecasts call for rainy winter and that means a lot of weeds. During dry times perennial weeds tend to grow better than annual weeds, since perennial structures such as underground rhizomes or tubers can support them and give competitive advantage. Seed of annual weeds in dry soil may have been losing viability, senescing or eaten during this time, but many have remained dormant and look forward to the wet winter us much as the rest of us.

Controlling weeds ‘organically' is always an extra challenge whether you are in a certified field or in an area where synthetic herbicides are not desired. Hand-weeding, already expensive, is even a greater burden with limited labor availability, and frankly not much fun either. Of course sanitation and prevention, mechanical and cultural management are essential in organic systems. That requires time and commitment and can quickly become your not-so-favorite pastime.

Organic herbicides have traditionally been contact materials with no systemic activity. This means that they only affect tissue that they contact and do not translocate through the plant like most synthetic herbicides. Thus, good coverage is critical for these contact materials. Many years ago the first herbicides were sulfuric acid and diesel fuel, current organic materials are often acids or oils too, although a lot more benign.

Recent trials by the University of California weed scientists showed that several organic herbicides provided decent control of easy to control pigweed and nightshade when they were small. When weeds were 12 days old, a mixture of 45% clove and 45% cinnamon oil, 20%-acetic acid and d-limonene gave 61-89% control; however only d-limonene controlled 19-day old weeds and none was effective on one-month old ones. As weeds get bigger they also develop a protective cuticle that minimizes efficacy of these herbicides.

This year we conducted trials with a recently OMRI approved herbicide for row crops, trees and vines that is a mix of caprylic and capric acids. It disrupts cell membranes of plans and causes the contents to leak and plants to desiccate. It worked well at 6 to 9% by volume mixture with water and gave 90% control of little mallow and >95% of annual sowthistle compared to untreated checks. We have also tested it in organic strawberry furrows before planting the crop to prevent potential injury from drift. Furrow cultivation does not get close to the plastic mulch that covers the beds to prevent tears, so the weeds in that zone are good target for the herbicide. This fatty acid herbicide provided excellent control of common lambsquarter, reduced the growth of common purslane but didn't do much for yellow nutsedge - one of our notoriously difficult to control perennial weeds (Figure). The bigger weeds need higher rates (9% is the maximum labeled rate) and better coverage. When you have multiple layers of weed leaf canopy and diverse architecture some plants or their parts may be protected by others that intercept the deposition of the herbicide. When on target, this contact material acts fast – you can see results within 2-3 days, however, it does nothing to weed propagules in soil and has no residual activity against wind-dispersed weed seed that fly in after application. This means the control does not last and you will need additional applications or other control measures. Repeated application is not a problem in a non-crop area and is a great way to deplete your weed seedbank, but crop protection from drift, such as shielded sprayers, is necessary to avoid off target plant injury.


Figure. Weed control in strawberry furrows prior to planting with 9% by volume of fatty acid herbicide (top) and weeds in untreated check (bottom)

organic herbicide dead
organic herbicide dead

organic herbicide live
organic herbicide live

Posted on Wednesday, November 25, 2015 at 9:04 AM
Tags: acids (1), amaranth (2), avocado (289), cheeseweed (1), citrus (338), herbicides (18), mallow (1), malva (2), orchards (7), organic (12), pigweed (2), weeds (32)
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