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The FFC Bulletin 2015 V4 – False and Stale Seedbeds: The most effective non-chemical weed management tools for cropping and pasture establishment

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By Charles Merfield

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  • Globally there is a growing need for non-chemical weed management tools due to multiple and increasing issues with herbicides.
  • Of the many non-chemical techniques ‘false seedbeds’ stands out due to its efficacy, ease of use, reliability and low cost plus it can be used for any kind of plant establishment from pasture through arable to vegetables.
  • False and stale seedbeds are based on three rules: (1) most weed seeds are dormant, (2) tillage is the most effective means of germinating weed seeds, and (3) most weeds only emerge from the top 5 cm / 2” of soil.
  • Both false and stale seedbeds work by the very simple process of germinating the weeds then killing them and then growing the crop.
  • False seedbed use tillage / cultivation to kill the weeds.
  • Stale seedbeds use thermal weeders or herbicides to kill the weeds.
  • For both techniques it is critical to have the weed seed bank under control.
  • For false seedbeds getting the tillage correct is utterly critical and in most cases requires specialised machinery.
  • Thermal weeders (for stale seedbeds) are also specialist machines and choosing the right type and design in critical.
  • When false and stale seedbeds are used as key components of an integrated weed management program exceptional weed control can be achieved without the use of herbicides.

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