Weed Control Consideration in Compost Production and Use

in HortScience
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  • 1 Univ. of Florida, IFAS, Southwest Florida Research and Education Center, Immokalee, FL 33934-9716

A rapid increase in municipal solid waste (MSW) production (2 kg/person per day), combined with a decreasing number of operating landfills, has increased waste disposal costs. Composting MSW can be an alternative method of waste disposal to traditional landfilling or incineration. Weed control methods using waste materials such as bark, straw, and sawdust were used in commercial crop production for many years before the advent of chemical weed control. Weed growth suppression by mulching can often be almost as effective as conventional herbicides. A 10 to 15 cm-deep mulch layer is needed to completely discourage weed growth in these systems, and best results are obtained with composted materials. In recent years, composts made from a large variety of waste materials have become available on a commercial scale. Preliminary investigations into the use of MSW compost as a weed control agent have shown that compost, especially in an immature state, applied to row crop middles reduced weed growth due to its high concentration of acetic, propionic, and butyric acids. Subsequently, compost can be incorporated into the soil for the following growing season to potentially improve soil physical and chemical properties. Integrated pest management programs that incorporate biological control should be adopted wherever possible because some weed species with persistent seeds can escape chemical control.

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