By Clint Thompson
It is essential for container nurseries to keep plants weed free from start to finish. According to Alabama Extension, weeds can reduce the growth and marketability of nursery crops.
Jeremy Pickens, Alabama Assistant Extension Professor in Horticulture at Auburn University, says when selling ornamentals, “aesthetics is everything.”
“There’s really no margin for error. You’ve got to have clean plants for them to be marketable. Weed control is super important and if not handled correctly, it can be pretty expensive,” Pickens said. “The best management practice is start clean and keep it clean, so you don’t have to use hand weeding because it is so expensive. Using pre-emergent herbicides, using the right product for the right weed at the right time at the right rate is just paramount for good weed control.”
Pickens said labor costs for pulling weeds can range between $500 and $4,000 per acre, and that’s if you can find workers to begin with. That also doesn’t include costs associated with crop loss or diminished growth. If producers understood the cost of managing existing weeds, they would be more apt to prevent weeds from the beginning.
“It’s actually more difficult to control weeds in a nursery because we’re so limited on post-emergent control options. Once you’ve got a weed there, your only option is to pull it. You really rely on those pre-emergent products that prevent the weeds in the first place. With labor shortages and expensive as labor is, it’s just crucial to have a good program from the start. If you start clean and keep it clean, you’ll be in good shape,” Pickens said.