Weed Control in Fruit Crops

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Weed control guide for fruit crops. Includes description and use of herbicides for fruit crops and different application techniques. The guide is organized by fruit crop.
Ground cover management affects both fruit tree vigor and yield. Use a ground cover system that facilitates management of the fruit planting for improved tree growth and productivity.
Young trees, especially those on less vigorous rootstocks, should be free of competition from weeds during the year of planting to obtain larger trees. Trees maintained in weed-free conditions produce more total yield, a result of increased tree size, fruit set and fruit size. It is most effective to maintain a weed-free area in the tree row and a sod or cover crop alleyway to support vehicle travel and control erosion.
Weeds compete directly with trees and vines for soil moisture and nutrients and often serve as hosts for insects, nematodes and diseases. Weeds may also provide cover for rodents that attack tree trunks during the winter months. Certain noxious weeds, such as poison ivy or Canada thistle, may make harvesting of fruit an unpleasant task.
It is necessary to provide optimum growing conditions the first few seasons to produce a healthy tree with a strong trunk and scaffold branches. Control perennial weeds such as quackgrass, nutsedge or Canada thistle with repeated tillage or herbicides prior to planting a new orchard or they may seriously reduce the growth of newly planted trees. Annual weeds may also inhibit the growth of young trees, particularly stone fruits, and should be controlled when trees are actively growing. Control of weeds in an area 3 feet from the trunk is adequate in the first 2 years. As the tree becomes larger and its root system spreads over large areas, control weeds in the area 4 feet from the trunk or at least to the drip-line of the tree.

Bernard Zandstra
Michigan State University Extension