Weed control in organic vegetable production systems is challenging and accounts for a large portion of production costs. Six methods to prepare a stale seedbed were compared on certified and transitional organic land in Salinas, CA, in 2004. Weed control operations occurred on raised beds 2 to 3 d before planting baby spinach or a simulated vegetable planting. A flamer and an herbicide application of 10% v/v of a clove oil mixture (45% v/v clove oil) at 280 L/ha (iteration 1) or 15% v/v of a clove oil mixture (45% clove oil) at 467 L/ha (iterations 2 and 3) were used to control weeds without disturbing the soil. Top knives on a sled, a rolling cultivator, and a rotary hoe were used to control weeds while tilling the bed top. A bed shaper–rototiller combination was also used, which tilled the entire bed. Broadleaf weed control was 36% with clove oil, 63% with the rotary hoe, and significantly higher (87 to 100% control) with the remaining treatments in iteration 1. Broadleaf weed control was consistently lower (72 to 86% control) with the flamer than all other treatments (95 to 100% control) in iterations 2 and 3. The difference between sites can probably be attributed to differences in weed size. The flamer and the clove oil herbicide had the lowest number of weeds emerging with the crop following stale seedbed formation. The most expensive technique was clove oil at $1,372/ha. The estimated cost of forming the stale seedbed with the remaining weed management tools ranged from $10 to $43/ha.
Nomenclature: Spinach, Spinacia oleracea L. #3 SPQOL.
Additional index words: Flaming, cultivation, weed emergence, irrigation, stale seedbeds, vegetables.
Abbreviations: USDA-ARS, U.S. Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service.