There are many techniques that growers can use to reduce their expense for weed control.
Weeds can impact vineyards in more ways than just being an unsightly eyesore. They compete with the grapevine for water, nutrition, and sunlight, and play host to insects and nematodes.
But does weed control pay, considering the high cost of farm inputs?
Dr. Robert Parker believes it does. Parker, extension weed specialist for Washington State University, said weed control is most important in new vineyards and orchards. However, when production inputs rise faster than grower returns, doing without weed control is often considered by growers as a way to shave costs.
Parker said that herbicide costs vary widely, but there are a few things that growers can do to minimize herbicide expenses.
"The new herbicides are applied using ounces per acre, not pounds per acre," he said.
Calibrating orchard and vineyard spray equipment is the most important step that growers can take to save money, he said. A recent study from Ohio showed that most farmers are overapplying herbicides by 23 percent. Spray equipment should be calibrated and maintained annually (see "Calibration Steps").
Another way to save money is to use the banded instead of broadcast method to apply herbicides in orchards or vineyards. "By banding, you are treating one-third the acreage if the vineyard is on a 9-foot row spacing. You’re spraying about three feet and can get more out of your herbicide," Parker explained. Many herbicide labels are based on the broadcast method, which is designed to cover everything in the vineyard or orchard, including the entire width of the row.
For example, if a herbicide is labeled for a quart per acre, by changing the application method to banding, one quart will cover three acres, he said. Field acreage is much different than treated acreage when using the banded method.