Chemical Weed Control
Although Echinacea grows in meadow ecosystems in wild places, it is not weed tolerant in cultivation. Therefore, although weed control is a very important factor throughout the entire cultivation period, it is especially important in the first year. In small cultivation areas, mechanical weeding is an ideal and easy way to keep populations free from weeds. However, in the case of larger, industrial production, chemical weed control becomes necessary, especially if direct sowing of seeds has been employed.
In Europe, registered herbicides exist only in Poland where several experiments were carried out for elaborating chemical weed control methods for E. purpurea (Kordana et al., 1996; Kucharski, 1997). Among 18 tested herbicides, three preparations have given good weed control alone or in combinations. Azogard (prometryn) in the dosage of 2.0 kg/ha provided good control of broadleaf weeds; Kerb 500 SC (propyzamid) in the dosage of 2 kg/ha controlled grass and broadleaf weeds; and Fusilade Super (fluazifop-P-butyl) in the dosage of 1.5 l/ha controlled grass weed. The residuals of these herbicides in the raw material were at a permissible level (Kucharski, 2000).
Time-consuming manual weeding is one of the most significant factors in production cost and it is the main limiting factor in field size for cultivation. Mechanical weeding and the use of various mulches comprise two more practical methods for large-scale cultivation.
In larger-scale organic cultivation, the use of plastic mulch is common, since its spreading is mechanized at present for strawberry and cucumber cultivation. Plastic mulch can decrease the labor cost of weed control by 70% to 80% and produces a 114% increase in fresh plant weight (Galambosi and Szebeni-Galambosi, 1992). Cleaning rows between plastic mulch rows could be easily mechanized as well using regular lawnmowers. The heat accumulation in the soil under the plastic mulch in cooler areas is an additional advantage of this method. In warmer climates, use of black plastic mulch could be a disadvantage since it retains heat. Consequently, growers need to prepare for irrigation.
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