What is Integrated Weed Management?

Weed management is most effective when it integrates a combination of strategies, based on what works best for achieving a particular management goal while maintaining economic and environmental stability. Common methods span a large range and include prevention and cultural, chemical, mechanical, and biological practices.

Integrated weed management (IWM) means integrating multiple methods to manage weeds, using the combination of practices that is most effective for solving the specific weed issue at hand. These weed management techniques form a “toolbox” in which each “tool” can be integrated into a weed management plan catered to the particular farm and problem. The toolbox includes chemical (herbicide), mechanical, cultural, biological practices, and prevention of weed introduction and spread.

IWM tactics span a wide range of types and complexity. Not all IWM tactics are very complex, and you are probably already using some of them. Some examples include: equipment cleaning, timely scouting, altering herbicide tank mixes, rotating herbicides, cover cropping, changing tillage practices, and hand-pulling weeds.

Integrated weed management is not an alternative to herbicides in conventional crops. For many decades, herbicides have been the primary means of weed management in conventional crops due to their simplicity, effectiveness, and affordability. IWM is about using all options available to best solve the problem – in many cases in conventional crops, herbicides are part of this solution.

Why now?

For some, IWM is not just another choice for weed control, but rather it is a necessity. Often what drives producers to alter weed control practices is when current strategies are no longer effective, or a new weed enters a field and requires a change in plan. Here are two recent agronomic shifts that are driving change in weed control options:

  • The rapid spread of herbicide resistance is limiting the viability of some popular herbicides throughout the US
  • Increased consumer demand for organic products motivates some producers to integrate new weed control practices in the absence of herbicides.

What resources are available for learning about & implementing IWM strategies?

Numerous resources from around the US are available here on this site – find these under Cultural, Mechanical, Chemical, Biological, Prevention, and Harvest Weed Seed Control. State university extension weed scientists offer training that is catered to the particular state.

For up-to-date recommendations for specific weeds, explore the Weed Info tab on the homepage.

Introductory resources about IWM:

Integrated Weed Management: “One Year’s Seeding…” – Michigan State University

“Still Don’t Think You Need Integrated Weed Management?” – Iowa State University

A summary of IWM strategies – Penn State University

Integrated Weed Management: What It Is, Why It’s Important – Ohio Soybean Council

University of Illinois Agronomy Guide – Weed Management – University of Illinois

Field Crop Weed Management for Illinois – University of Illinois

Summary of Invasive Weed Control Strategies, from Australia

“Successful Weed Management Must Respect the Rotation – University of Delaware

Archive of Weed Management Recommendations from out of Iowa – Iowa State University

Weed Management Strategies for Cotton – Texas A&M University