Integrated Weed Management in Sugarcane
Weed management in sugarcane, or in any crops, plays a huge role in the maximization of one’s crop production. Weed infestations can cause anywhere from a 12% to 72% reduction in the yield of sugarcane. This wide range of reduction comes from the different levels of severity, but in any case, if you are trying to maximize your sugarcane yield, weed management is key.
With sugarcane, the problem that a weed infestation can pose is unique from other crops, and this is why it can become so severe. The weed problem with sugarcane can be more severe due to the sugarcane’s wider row spacing, its slow initial growth, and its increased water and nutrient requirements.
These conditions can lead to the growth of different weed types such as sedges (Cyprus rotundus), grasses (cynodon dactylon, sorghum helepense, panicum spp, etc.), and broad-leaved weeds (chenapodium album, convolvulus arvensis L., amaranthus viridis L., etc.)
Weed Control in Sugarcane
There are three categories of methods in which you can control the spread of weeds in sugarcane. These are: 1) Chemical Control, 2) Mechanical Method, and 3) Cultural Practices.
1. Chemical Control – Weed management in sugarcane can be controlled through chemicals or herbicides. These herbicides are sprayed onto the sugarcane crops and are designed to kill off certain types of weeds. When applying herbicides, it is important that you rotate chemical groups and also use more than one method of weed control in sugarcane. This control method must also be monitored so that you can find surviving weeds early in the process.
2. Mechanical Method – The mechanical methods for weed management in sugarcane is by far the most common and effective method. The only negative is that it takes a lot of time. The mechanical method of weed control involves deep plowing and collecting grass weeds, burying weed seeds deep so they are ineffective, and hand weeding. This is the best way to make sure that you are completely removing the weed problem, but due to its manual steps, it can be a very slow process.
3. Cultural Practices – There are certain practices in the production of sugarcane and other crops that can help you manage weed growth. Some of these practices include proper crop rotations, crop competition, clean cultivation, mulching, and more.
By rotating your crops, you help break apart the weeds so that they eventually die off. For mulching, you can use the trash you get from your sugarcane to help suppress the growth of weeds.
When using chemicals and herbicides for weed management in sugarcane, there can be some environmental consequences. These negative, environmental results of weed control can be avoided by taking the proper precautions. The two biggest side-effects are weed resistance and chemical runoff due to rainfall or irrigation.
After applying herbicides to sugarcane, the weeds can start to become resistant to the chemicals. This means that they will eventually be able to survive completely even if those herbicides are used on them. This is why it is important to cycle through different types of chemicals so that you can “surprise” the weed and kill it off.
Chemical runoff can be a big issue, as well. Timing is key when trying to avoid the negative impacts of applying herbicides. You want to make sure you apply the herbicides when rainfall and irrigation will not have an effect on it. Usually, you will need to wait about 2 days from when the herbicides are applied before the chemicals completely bind to the soil.
Efficient Methods for Weed Control
There are many additional methods for weed management in sugarcane that involve more advance hardware and software systems. These systems allow for even more efficiency in the process of weed management. Effective weed control requires proper plant identification and detection of various species of vegetation. One way to do this is by using a method that is referred to as hyperspectral imaging.
Multispectral and hyperspectral imaging are used to image farm fields. The cameras that are used in this process can view additional wavelengths of light, which provides many benefits for weed control. Some companies have their own proprietary cameras and provide platforms that utilize machine learning and artificial intelligence.
The hardware and software that is used in this process generate a variable rate map, which can dictate the rate at which herbicides and other materials are applied to the land. For example, if the imaging techniques identify an area with a higher density of weeds, it can tell the machinery to spray the specific type of herbicide at a higher rate in that area. A variable rate map can also tell the machine to switch sprays at different zones that it detects.
Benefits of the Integrated Approach
The integrated approach to weed management in sugarcane is much more efficient than traditional means. With access to advanced sensors, imaging, and a powerful analytics platform, crop producers can significantly improve their yields and effectively control their weed problems.