Wednesday February 26 2014

FARMER’S DIARY : The farmer’s perpetual war against weeds

By Michael J. Ssali

In farming, any plant growing where it is not wanted is described as a weed. Beans growing in a garden intended to be for lilies or roses may be referred to as weeds. Plants that are poisonous or unpalatable to animals are regarded as weeds in pasture land and must be removed.
Weeds are a burden to the farmer and they take up a lot of time and energy to fight. Some farmers must hire extra labour or purchase herbicides and tools to fight weeds.
And they are always an issue reflected in the farmer’s budget for overheads.
The weeds compete with the crops for sunlight, water and nutrients.
They make farm inspection difficult for the farmer.

If neglected they become a habitat for snakes and rodents, and other pests. They also reduce crop yields and cause losses. Early planting after seedbed preparation gives chance to crops such as beans, groundnuts, or maize to grow vigorously before most weeds are strong enough to compete well for soil nutrients or sunlight.

Ways of weeding
It is always good to remove the weeds before they are mature enough to bear seeds so as to retard their reproduction rate.
Most smallholder farmers use a hand hoe to remove weeds. This practice is time consuming and the farmer may often fail to cover the entire field in the required time.
Using the hand hoe also makes the top soil loose and exposes it to agents of soil erosion such as running water and wind. For crops such as coffee whose roots are close to the soil surface, frequent use of the hand hoe to fight weeds may cause extensive root damage and reduce yields.

Other farmers use herbicides, which enables them to cover a wide area in a short time. The practice minimises the need for hired labour and reduces the overhead costs as most farmers find it cheaper.

The farmer must however take care not to spray the herbicide on the crops. Herbicides are poisonous chemicals and the farmer must wear protective gear to avoid personal harm.
Mulching prevents weeds from growing and keeps the soil moist. Most agriculturists recommend mulching because it prevents soil erosion and eventually the mulch turns into manure.