Cultural weed control aims to optimize sowing or planting dates, seed rates or transplant densities, spacing layouts, soil fertility, irrigation practices and cultivar selection to achieve rapidity of crop growth which is able to outcompete weeds for resources. The aim should be to ensure either that the crop plants emerge first or that transplants can establish ahead of weed development and close their canopy over the weeds, thereby smothering them.
Manipulating crop geometry can radically influence the grower's ability to control weeds. Thus seeds or transplants should be placed at uniform depths to produce even and regular crop growth. Use of high crop densities and narrow row spacing ensures that the crop canopy closes as quickly as possible. This may be aided by the use of crop covers (see Chapter 7) which increase the accumulation of units of soil heat and, therefore, encourage more rapid root and shoot growth. Integrated management requires that inputs such as nutrients and water are applied uniformly ensuring even growth without the development of stress within the crop. Similarly, biotic stresses caused by pests and pathogens should be minimized. Vigorous healthy crops have greater competitive abilities against weeds than stressed crops.
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