Three field experiments were carried out in organic winter wheat in three consecutive years (exp. 1, 2005-06; exp. 2, 2006-07; exp. 3, 2007-08) in central Italy (42°57' N - 12°22' E, 165 m a.s.l.) in order to evaluate the efficacy against weeds and the effects on winter wheat of two main mechanical weed control strategies: 1) spring tine harrowing used at three different application times (1 passage at T1; 2 passages at the time T1; 1 passage at T1 followed by 1 passage at T1 + 14 days) in the crop sowed at narrow (traditional) row spacing (0.15 m) and 2) split-hoeing and finger-weeder, alone and combined at T1, in the crop sowed at wider row spacing (0.30 m). At the time T1 winter wheat was at tillering and weeds were at the cotyledons-2 true leaves growth stage. The experimental design was a split-plot with four replicates. Six weeks after mechanical treatments, weed ground cover (%) was rated visually using the Braun–Blanquet cover-abundance scale; weeds on three squares (0.6 x 0.5 m each one) per plot were collected, counted, weighed, dried in oven at 105 °C to determine weed density and weed above-ground dry biomass. At harvest, wheat ears density, grain yield, weight of 1000 seeds and hectolitre weight were recorded. Total weed flora was quite different in the three experiments. The main weed species were: Polygonum aviculare L. (exp. 1 and 2), Fallopia convolvulus (L.) Á. Löve (exp. 1 and 3), Stachys annua (L.) L. (exp. 1), Anagallis arvensis L. (exp. 2), Papaver rhoeas L. (exp.3), Veronica hederifolia L. (exp. 3). In the winter wheat sowed at narrow rows, 2 passages with spring-tine harrowing at the same time seems to be the best option in order to reconcile a good efficacy with the feasibility of treatment. In wider rows spacing the best weed control was obtained by splithoeing alone or combined with finger-weeder. The grain yield, on average 10% higher in narrow rows, the lower costs and the good selectivity of spring-tine harrowing treatments seems to suggest the adoption of narrow rows spacing in wheat in organic and low-input farming systems.
Finger-weeding; Integrated weed management; Mechanical weed control; Splithoeing; Spring-tine harrowing; Weeds