Vinegar can supplement the existing intrarow weed control options of organic farmers. However, there are two primary limitations to its use in vegetable crops. First, it is costly. Second, vinegar applications that contact the crop can cause injury and yield loss. The aim of this research was to use vinegar to control intrarow weeds in bell pepper and broccoli in a way that product costs would be reduced and crop injury would be minimized. Banded applications were shielded and directed below the crop canopy to reduce weed control costs and minimize contact with crop foliage. Organic paints applied to crop stems were evaluated as potential physical barriers to crop stem injury. Four field trials were conducted in 2009, two in transplanted bell pepper and two in transplanted broccoli. A single application of 200-grain vinegar (20% acetic acid) at 700 L ha−1 was applied when weeds were in the cotyledon to six-leaf stage. Applications were made to crops with the lower stems coated in one of two stem protectants, or left uncoated. Hand-weeded and weedy treatments were included for comparison. One day after vinegar application, in-row weed control was 100% in both pepper trials and greater than 96% in the broccoli trials. Two weeks after application, 75% fewer weeds germinated in the vinegar-treated areas compared with the areas that were hand weeded. Neither stem protectant prevented crop injury. Despite pepper foliar injury of less than 5%, stem injury 2 wk after application contributed to a measurable yield reduction. Broccoli injury was limited to instances where overspray contacted the crop canopy. With vinegar, high levels of weed control and the extended duration of that control relative to hand weeding could facilitate improved organic intrarow weed control. However, crop injury must be reliably reduced. Alternative stem protectants may merit evaluation.
Nomenclature: Acetic acid; vinegar; broccoli, Brassica oleracea L.; pepper, Capsicum annuum L.