Machine-vision cultivator guidance systems are commercially available to growers, but little work has been done to determine if these guidance systems can improve integrated weed management systems in vegetable crops. Studies were conducted in 2005 and 2006 in broccoli and lettuce to evaluate band-applied DCPA or pronamide, respectively, and four noncultivated bands ranging from 5.1 to 12.7 cm. DCPA or pronamide were applied in bands centered on the seed line at 0, 7.6 or 12.7 cm wide. A commercial machine-vision system was used to guide a commercial cultivator. Generally, weed densities and hand-weeding times were less where the DCPA band in broccoli or the pronamide band in lettuce were 7.6 or 12.7 cm wide compared to no herbicide. Weed densities were lowest in both crops where the noncultivated band width was 5.1 cm compared to 12.7-cm noncultivated bands. For broccoli in both 2005 and 2006, net returns above production costs were generally higher in the 7.6- and 12.7-cm-wide DCPA bands compared with the no-herbicide band. In lettuce in both years, the no-pronamide treatment had higher net returns, when compared with the 7.6- and 12.7-cm pronamide bands. Lettuce yields and higher net returns in the no-pronamide treatment compared to the 7.6- and 12.7-cm pronamide bands may be due to slight yield reduction from pronamide. Results suggest that pronamide was not needed during the dry months of the year when weed management tools such as hand-weeding and cultivation work very well. However, in periods of rainy weather when cultivation and hand-weeding are not possible, then pronamide would likely provide the greatest economic benefit. Given the large impact of cultivation on vegetable weed management programs, the greatest potential benefit of machine-vision guided cultivators is if they facilitate more timely and effective cultivation.
Nomenclature: DCPA; pronamide; broccoli, Brassica oleracea L. var. botrytus L. ‘Marathon’; lettuce, Lactuca sativa L. ‘Sniper’, ‘PIC 714’, and ‘Darkland’