Cultivation is a critical component of organic weed management and has relevance in conventional farming. Limitations with current cultivation tools include high costs, limited efficacy, and marginal applicability across a range of crops, soil types, soil moisture conditions, and weed growth stages. The objectives of this research were to compare the weed control potential of two novel tools, a block cultivator and a stirrup cultivator, with that of a conventional S-tine cultivator, and to evaluate crop response when each tool was used in pepper and broccoli. Block and stirrup cultivators were mounted on a toolbar with an S-tine sweep. In 2008, the tripart cultivator was tested in 20 independently replicated noncrop field events. Weed survival and reemergence data were collected from the cultivated area of each of the three tools. Environmental data were also collected. A multivariable model was created to assess the importance of cultivator design and environmental and operational variables on postcultivation weed survival. Additional trials in 2009 evaluated the yield response of pepper and broccoli to interrow cultivations with each tool. Cultivator design significantly influenced postcultivation weed survival (P < 0.0001). When weed survival was viewed collectively across all 20 cultivations, both novel cultivators significantly increased control. Relative to the S-tine sweep, the stirrup cultivator reduced weed survival by about one-third and the block cultivator reduced weed survival by greater than two-thirds. Of the 11 individually assessed environmental and operational parameters, 7 had significant implications for weed control with the sweep; 5 impacted control with the stirrup cultivator, and only 1 (surface weed cover at the time of cultivation) influenced control with the block cultivator. Crop response to each cultivator was identical. The block cultivator, because of its increased effectiveness and operational flexibility, has the potential to improve interrow mechanical weed management.
Nomenclature: Broccoli, Brassica oeracea L.; pepper, Capsicum annuum L.