Mechanical Weed Control in Corn
Agricultural Engineering Sciences
Glyphosate, the main ingredient in 'Roundup' herbicide has been the mainstay in weed control for decades. We have now Roundup-Ready corn and soybeans which allows treating large fields effciently and effectively. However, in recent studies, some weed species such as Waterhemp have become resistant to Roundup. Waterhemp's inherently high genetic variability and prolific seed production are characteristics that contribute to its capacity to spread and adapt to new environments. Collectively, these characteristics present significant management problems and are among the reasons why waterhemp is currently the top broadleaf weed problem for Illinois farmers.
To address the trend of weeds becoming resistant to glyphosate and undoubtedly eventually to any other herbicide, the department of Agricultural & Biological Engineering has developed a Mechanical Weed Control system for corn. Graduate student Craig Cordill developed a machine that detects where the corn stalks are located in the row, and then uses mechanical arms that perform the mechanical weeding using harrows that avoid the corn stalks. The system as currently developed is relatively slow, and further research to boost the performance is underway. Overall, this method allows full mechanical weeding in resistant weed infested cornfields, and it may hold promise in the area of organic farming as well.
This work was funded by a grant from the Council on Food & Agricultural Research (C-FAR)