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CLAYTON RYE

By Staff | Jun 17, 2011

Our crop year is progressing. With everything planted and emerged, the next phase is at hand. We have started weed control.

Since my son is in charge of getting things done, I have a lesser role. It was that way during planting and is now with spraying. I am the one who hauls the water and herbicide to where I am told to be so he can reload.

However, the potato patch needs attention too and that is where I can take my responsibility. Yesterday afternoon, with hoe in hand, I was taking care of weed control.

I heard the voice of my college agronomy instructor from around 1967, Dr Frederick Troeh, of Iowa State University, saying, “A good seed bed is a good weed bed.”

I was a lowly undergraduate hearing these words of wisdom from a PhD. I have heard them every year since at this time of year. It was his way of saying if you have done your job well in the seed bed preparation, you are going to have weeds.

The weeds in the potato garden were doing well. Both broadleaves and grasses were well-rooted and giving the potato plants real competition. A person learns these things when using a hoe.

This weed control method is more like hand-to-hand combat, while spraying with a tractor and sprayer is more like carpet bombing the enemy, returning to the safety of a base somewhere, while the bombs do the real work.

Hoeing more tedious. I did not have an air-conditioned cab or a monitor to insure a correct rate of application. It was just me, the hoe, the weeds and some potato plants in need of less competition.

So on each row it was chop a little … pause …chop some more … pause … go back and chop those weeds missed the first time … pause. The pausing is because I am almost 64 years old and badly out of shape.

While I am working on weed removal without damaging potato plants, I wondered what if I tried some reverse psychology on this garden.

What would happen if I hoed out the potato plants and left the weeds, would the potatoes then take over the garden?

I do not think Dr Troeh would approve of that. Well, it was just a thought.

It took a little while, but there was progress to be measured as the potato rows became more distinct and less part of a sea of green.

A person could see the potato plants standing taller and taking in as much fresh air and sunshine as they wanted as their now wilting former competitors lie vanquished, their destiny to return to mulch.

Did you know there was so much drama in a potato patch?

There was no doubt that while the weeds were not completely eliminated because there were still the ones standing in between the potato plants, this was time well spent, because we could now see each potato plant and we could see the rows where before it was mainly solid green.

My wife and I knew our work was not finished and the day after tomorrow we will return to finish our weeding.

This time it will be on hands and knees as we pull those stubborn well-rooted unwelcome intruders out of the ground.

As I walked away carrying my hoe, I looked at a piece of ground that was not 100-plus acres in size nor was my equipment a satellite guided, 150-plus horsepower tractor with a sprayer covering 90 feet of ground at a time while monitored by a computer.

However, the sense of satisfaction from my little piece of ground and humble hoe was the same. I had prepared a seed bed and planted the seed with the goal of having the best yield I can get at harvest.

This was still farming.

Rye is a Farm News staff writer and farmer from Hanlontown. Reach him by e-mail at crye@wctatel.net.

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