Innovative Strategies and Machines for Physical Weed Control in Organic and Integrated Vegetable Crops
Fontanelli, M.
Frasconi, C.
Martelloni, L.
Pirchio, M.
Raffaelli, M.
Peruzzi, A.
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How to Cite

Fontanelli M., Frasconi C., Martelloni L., Pirchio M., Raffaelli M., Peruzzi A., 2015, Innovative Strategies and Machines for Physical Weed Control in Organic and Integrated Vegetable Crops, Chemical Engineering Transactions, 44, 211-216.
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Weed control is one of the most serious problems in vegetable crops, limiting cultivated plants correct development, yields, product quality and farmers income. Therefore, the aim of this work was to set up and improve innovative strategies and machines for physical (mechanical and thermal) weed control in organic or “integrated” vegetables production in many important areas of Northern, Central and Southern Italy. Therefore, on-farm experiments were carried out since 1999 on fresh marketable spinach, processing and fresh market tomato, cauliflower, savoy cabbage, greenhouse cultivated leaf beet, garlic, chicory, fennel and carrot. These research activities started are still ongoing. The traditional farm weed management system was always compared to one or more innovative strategies that were defined according to the characteristics of the environment (i.e. soil type and conditions, water availability, etc.), typology of cultivation, crop rotation, expected technical and economical results. The innovative strategies were the combination among preventive methods (false or stale seed-bed technique), cultural methods (i.e. crop spatial arrangement that was often adjusted in order to improve operative machines effectiveness) and direct control methods (flaming, precision hoeing, etc.). Different kinds of specific implement such as flex tine and rolling harrows (patented by the University of Pisa, patent n. PI/2004/A/000071), and flamers (designed and realized by the University of Pisa) were used to perform false or stale seed-bed technique. Precision hoes equipped with rigid tools and hoe- conformed rolling harrows, equipped with elastic tines for selective intra-row weed control, were used to perform post emergence interventions. The use of the innovative weed management systems always resulted in significant weed abundance reductions (from 70 to 100 %), relevant yield increases, high contractions of manpower requirement (from 20 to 80 %) and consequent relevant reductions of costs and increases of farmers gross incomes (from 15 to 75 %) in comparison with those obtained performing the standard systems. The results of these on-farm experiments emphasise that physical weed control can be effectively performed using the innovative machines designed and built at the University of Pisa. These machines can also be easily adjusted in order to be used in other crops and agricultural contexts.
Moreover, the present versions of the machines, realized as “low-tech” implement in order to be available on the market at low costs, were recently modified within the RHEA Project, a 7th Framework Programme EU funded research project, in which an automatic and robotized hoeing-flaming machine able to perform VRA cross flaming was designed, fully realized and tested obtaining very promising results.
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