If the soil in your field has high silt content or little residue cover, chances are that heavy rains could result in soil crusting. Raindrops will typically pack soil in a thick layer near the surface which is cemented by rapid drying. This soil crusting can then lead to reduced oxygen supply to the seeds as well as water infiltration interference that can lead to poor emergence. Seeds will often continue to grow under this layer until they run out of stored energy.
The rotary tiller has been noted as one of the best tools to help you through the crust, allowing the seeds to emerge. But a rotary hoe must be used at the right time for it to be effective. The best time to use it is before too many plants emerge to be damaged by the cultivation and also before the ground gets too hard for the hoe to work. A pass with a rotary hoe is essential because it can break up the soil around the seed, reenergizing the emergence of the seeds.
Using the Rotary How for Weed Control
In no till operations, the residue increases, which can also increase weed germination. No-till situations can shift the populations of weeds, large seeded, deep-rooted weeds decrease and small weeded, shallow-rooted ones increase. This is what makes rotary hoeing a good solution for weeding.
Rotary hoeing can also be appropriate when the amount of rainfall is not sufficient to activate some herbicides and incorporate them. Rotary hoeing can be very helpful in incorporating the herbicide, activating it and helping to prevent weeds in that way. You may also find that you spend a lot less on herbicides since the mechanical approach to weed management means far less herbicide application.
Again, the timing or rotary hoeing is very important. Weed control in particular should be done when the weeds are in the “white stage” or before they become easily visible above ground. This is usually a window between 5to 14 days after planting. This timing may also depend on the on several other factors including the last tillage, the weather (particularly the time passed) and the seed properties among others. When determining the right time, you will also have to keep certain considerations in mind including field scouting, weed emergence progress and digging into the soil.
For the hoeing process to be effective for weed control, it needs to be done in the hottest part of the day. Windy days are also the best days to hoe since the wind and the heat will effectively speed up the drying process of the uprooted weeds. Consequently, you should avoid hoeing when the soil in damp mostly because the weeds will be resilient and may be able to re-root.
Proper Hoe Operation is Key
The effectiveness of the weeding process is also largely dependent on how the rotary hoe is used. When using the hoe, it is important to drive the same wheel tracks as your planter to reduce compaction. It also works well at a relatively high ground speed of 7 to 10 miles per hour. This speed also facilitates faster response to seedling needs, ensuring that days are not lost from the plant’s growing cycle.
If you’re hoeing a field of soybeans, it is best to hoe the soybeans in the afternoon when the seedlings are more flexible. This will prevent the snapping off of the plants although you also want to check the hoeing to ensure the cotyledons are not being damaged.