Mechanical Weed Control

Video: Integrating Cultivation into Weed Management, courtesy Bryan Brown, Cornell University Extension

Rolling cover crop

In conventional cropping systems, mechanical techniques can be used in addition to herbicide applications to help optimize the control of problem weeds. Not limited to tillage, a variety of mechanical methods can play a particularly large role in weed management in conventional systems where effective herbicide options are limited, such as in fields with severe multiple-herbicide resistant weed infestations, and in sensitive vegetable & fruit crops. In organic systems, mechanical practices like tillage and cultivation become more heavily relied upon for weed control in the absence of herbicide options.  Even in no-till systems, many mechanical techniques still play a valuable role in weed management.

Mechanical practices include tillage, cultivation, manual removal of weeds with hand tools, and other emerging, innovative technologies. For producers wishing to generally reduce herbicide use but still maintain weed control and yield, one option may be to band herbicides in combination with cultivation.

High-residue cultivation in a corn field with hairy vetch/triticale cover crop residue

High-residue cultivation in a corn field with hairy vetch/triticale cover crop residue

Producers using mechanical techniques should consider the timing and frequency of treatments that is best to control the specific weeds of concern. Also consider how they’ll fit in with other weed management practices happening on the field, as well as the effect they will have on the soil and overall farm management.

Resources and tips for catering these techniques to particular weed management problems are listed below.

Some examples of mechanical innovations include:

  • Harrington Seed Destructor for harvest-time weed seed destruction
  • Robotic weed control implements just beginning to emerge
  • Chaff carts for removal of escaped weeds at harvest
  • Finger weeders for in-row cultivation – most appropriate for high value crops in small acreage
  • High-residue cultivation


Would You Use Mechanical Cultivation for Weed Control? – WallacesFarmer

Considerations for Optimizing Success of Cultivation for Weed Control – Iowa State University

Cover Crop Rollers for No-till Grain Production – Bill Curran, Penn State University

Cultivation Tools for Mechanical Weed Control in Vegetables – University of Connecticut

Torsion Weeders – Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE)

High Residue Cultivation – Penn State University

Effective High-Speed, High-Residue Rowcrop Cultivation – Iowa State University

Creating a Weed Management Plan for Your Organic Farm (including mechanical control) – Penn State University

In-Row Cultivation – Rodale Institute

Top Tips for Mechanical Cultivation – Rodale Institute

Cultivation Equipment for Weed Control – Pros, Cons, and Sources – University of Vermont

Video: Capture Weed Seeds at Harvest: Chaff Carts

Hand Tools for Weeding – University of Maine

Vegetable Equipment Considerations for New Farmers – Cornell University