Weed control starting in no till

We are moving towards a syntropic farming system. However, getting weeds under control is a problem, particularly creeping weeds. I don’t want to plough or use herbicide, but with limited labour and nothing bigger than a compact tractor any suggestions please. I have seen stuff about using fertiliser, lime etc to make the soil inhospitable to weeds but that requires a good knowledge of the conditions for different weeds. I am in southern Philippines, lowland humid tropics.


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Well, you could either use some kind of beans to overpower the weeds, but then you would need to make sure they don’t overpower your other plants as well.

Or use sheep, but again, how to protect your trees…?

Or use geese.

Or just mow the stuf and let it rot on the ground, it will form a layer of mulch that will help hinder new growth of weed over time…

Just thoughts, though… We live in a different climate (dry tropics), so we have a different situation here.

And don’t forget that starting small is often a good idea. Once you’ve got an important spot established pretty much the way you want it, expand from there :slight_smile:

The best way to get control weed is to over power then. Some beans may do the jobs but. But use of sunn hemp will be better. It grown fast and high.
You can combine it will some crippling beans.
But, the best will be to roll it down at flowering around 60 days after sowing.
To roll it it no so difficult. Fill 200l drum with water and roll it many times. Or use roller crimper if available.

My best option would be use the weeds you have to accumulate it in lines. This lines you already passed the tractor, and are now (with the soil coverup with that weeds you pruned) perfect to receive your seedlings AND, at this place, with great soil coverup, no weed can grow. You keep doing it with time, soon you have no more area for weed to grow, and instead of making war against the weeds, you used its power. PS: Good soil coverup ends with the needs of weed control. Good soil coverup is one of the basis of syntropic farming.

Can you give me more details about your system? Is your main focus on the tree lines and you just need something to block weeds in the area between? Or is your focus on an annual crop in those areas? If so, what will you be growing?
If you can sacrifice the area between the tree lines, the favorite biomass plant of syntropic farmers these days is mombasa grass. You will need to manage it, but it is easy to cut and will provide enough clippings to mulch your tree lines and completely block out weeds there. Plus, where ever you have it growing, it will block weeds permanently, as it is a perennial.
If you want to see a visual, go to this link and scroll down to the image from Fazenda da Toca. https://agendagotsch.com/en/the-beauty-of-a-garden-meets-the-abundance-of-a-forest/.
The trick is management, you will want to cut the grass before it seeds to prevent spreading. Normally this is 4-6 times per year. I hope this helps.

Thank you very much to all of you for your advice and suggestions. I was wondering where I would be able to get sun hemp seeds until I saw a picture of it - I know what tha mysterious plant nobody new the name of but knew it was beneficial is now. I’ve collected the seeds and will have to multiply them first.

We grow annual crops in between the lines of trees and this is where we need to control the weeds. I’m not too worried about them along the tree lines as we cut them and as the mulch builds up it should smother them. The annual crops are maize, sweet potato, mung beans. Other than later in the dry season when we sow squash in the treeline so they get watered with the bananas we don’t grow vegetables as it is often the quickest way to lose money here - pests and frequently low prices, unless there has been a typhoon in another major producing area. With both maize and sweet potatoes the practice here is to ridge the soil, which doesn’t exactly go well with no till. The maize could be grown flat, although with the risk of waterlogging if it is very wet but is it possilbe to grow sweet potatoes without ridging?

Although I want to get to the point of no till and no chemicals my priority is to develop a transition that is feasible for other farmers who do plough and use chemicals, so if it meant using ‘one last spraying’ it’s not a big deal.

Hello @Eric_Read,

Have you ever heard of a Roller-Crimper? If you are in a lowland area and have a compact tractor, you may consider this method. By planting a dense ‘smother-cover’ crop you can begin to smother your weeds. Then, using this mechanical device, you can roll the cover crop over and terminate it. The crimping component will ensure that the cover crop cannot stand back up, leaving a nice thick mulch for you. This is a way to do no-till with no herbicides and no tillage!

We designed our roller-crimper so we can fill it with water to add additional weight. IN this case we used pearl millet as a cover crop. We used other legumes like sun hemp and sesbania, but we are finding the grass species really create the thickest cover.

A subsequent crop can then be direct seeded almost immediately into the mulch and will come up through the mulch. In this case we planted pigeon pea into the rolled mulch.


Hello Patrick,

Yes I have seen some videos of a roller being used in the States with rye and we do have a compact tractor and making one is no problem. I am not sure if I can get pearl millet, I’ll have ot try the agriverts, can other cereals like sorghum or even maize or a different sort of millet be used? Presumably the seed rate is higher than for grain harvesting, what seed rate should be used? Do you just broadcast it?

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Is there an advantage to a using mechanical approach like the crimper? Would cutting it with a machete work as well? Seems like the machete would leave the same mulch on the ground.

You could certainly ‘slash and mulch’ your cover crop with effect with a machete, but the advantage of this technique is that your cover crop will not come back. If planting a cover crop, especially grass, it will only grow back from where it was cut off. It can be problematic if you wish to remove your cover crop, say for a subsequent crop. This technique roll’s the cover crop over and crimps its stems so that it can’t bounce back, effectively leaving an excellent mulch that won’t come back. It all depends on your plans following the planting of your cover crop, I suppose.

Thanks Patrick for the additional information. It also sounds like it would depend on the cover crop being used. That is, some cover crops would die very easily being cut with a machete and others would not.