A common theme on this blog has been that farmers always try to do more with less; which is just another way of saying that in most ways possible we try to be as efficient as possible. That can be quantified in time, labor, use of tools such as chemicals, water management, etc. All of it comes down to doing more with less. But sometimes there are jobs on the farm that are really inefficient by nature and…they are really annoying.
One in particular is one that we do almost every spring, spraying some of the very hard to kill weeds that we have around our farm, sometimes in the field and sometimes on the headland of our fields. Three that quickly come to mind and are on my radar today are blackberries, wild carrots and Canadian thistle.
There seems to be a well accepted myth that pesticides including herbicides kill all living things, in truth that just isn’t the case. When managing weeds in and around our fields we have to take into account the growth stage of the weed, the timing of the year, the temperature of the air, and choice of herbicides, what is labeled, and rates on the label. Also will the herbicide kill it? Will it suppress it? Will it just hold us over until something better can be used at another time of year?
The timing windows on herbicides and weed control are very important. A good example of this is that until a few years ago we didn’t have good control of blackberries in the spring when they are actively growing and starting to take over. We were not able to spray crossbow because it can easily volatilize with the heat this time of year and hurt the surrounding plants, which is not a good thing. Now we have an herbicide that is safe to use even when it gets into warmer temperatures during the spring. Adding a completely new timing window to safely and effectively control blackberries. Unfortunately however, that tool doesn’t kill or control thistles or wild carrots.
Here is a prime example of an area on the edge of one of our fields that has all three weed issues.
And here is where we hit this whole efficiency problem. Today I’m out spraying with a backpack along our borders. I’m getting areas that have blackberries first with my backpack filled with a mix of PastureGard. I’ll come back later with another backpack mixed to control thistles. And then for third time, rinse and repeat, with a backpack to kill the wild carrots.
This job is annoying because it takes 1000 years to do. But it’s also very important to keep weeds suppressed before they become an issue in the actual crop land and can quickly become a much larger, and a much bigger efficiency problem than just me with a backpack. So one could argue that by doing this annoying job, I’m actually making things more efficient for the future….I mean it doesn’t feel like that to me, but one could argue.