Mechanical Weed Control in Corn (Zea mays L.)
Mechanical weed control in corn was practised as early as the 19th century. Over the past 30 years, however, effective selective herbicides have more or less replaced mechanical cultivation (Lampkin 1990). Although cultivation, or tillage, is still done because of the benefits to the soil, weed control is performed through an early-season application of herbicide. Tillage not only controls weeds but loosens the soil and breaks the surface crust, a common problem in corn growing. Crusts tend to form in silty clay soils after a period of rain followed by hot, windy weather. The crust slows oxygen diffusion and reduces heat transfer, makes emergence difficult for corn seedlings, and has a negative impact on crop uniformity. Removing the surface crust by cultivation also promotes mineralization of the nutrients required by corn (Souty and Rode 1994). In addition, cultivation helps to preserve soil moisture needed for plant growth, since the layer of loosened soil limits the capillary rise of moisture. This function of cultivation is most effective in regions with a dry climate and when the corn root system is not very well developed. When the roots are well distributed throughout the soil or the foliage provides shade, little moisture is lost even if the field has not been cultivated.
KeywordsWeed Control Weed Seed Corn Root Surface Crust Light Cultivator
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