The Row Crop Cultivator Returns?

There have been so many stories lately about events that will create cultural change. This might actually be a story that describes true change to a portion of our culture-or not. I mean, I’m not clairvoyant.

Roundup-ready crops made farmers much more productive. You could plant a crop and then spray the weeds without killing off the crop.  It made the field clean from weeds and saved a lot of time. Somewhere along the way, occasional weeds became resistant to the roundup herbicide which was a concern. I noticed this a few years ago and wrote a column that farmers may have to begin cultivating row crops instead of spraying them. Dicamba came along a few years ago and my row-crop cultivation prediction was put aside.

Recently, the Environmental Protection Agency and the 9th Federal District court have been tugging back and forth on the question of whether Dicamba is something farmers can use. So, I can trot out my row crop idea, again. I honestly hope they get Dicamba figured out and we can forget the row crop cultivators for now. However, mechanically killing weeds with a cultivator is one alternative to herbicides.

I could wonder what a row crop world would look like however I am old enough to have seen one. The row-crop world requires more patience, especially the first time you cultivate the crop. The crop is so small that you must be careful as to not accidentally dig up a plant or push dirt on top if it as you dig up weeds. Row crop cultivators have shields for early cultivation however you can pull the shields up or remove them as the season goes on. You can also drive faster as the crop grows larger in size.

In other parts of the world, row crop cultivation is already a part of farm life. These implements make it possible to perform highly detailed row crop cultivation at higher speeds. I’m not sure how this would balance out as I’m sure there are fairly inexpensive, used row-crop cultivators available in someone’s tree row  and the more modern version is probably expensive. However, farmers will have to balance the money they save on a used cultivator with the cost of someone to drive the tractor and the economy of scale.

The change in mindset may be a challenge too.  Farmers-driven to work as fast as possible- now focusing for hours, at slow speeds might be like a sprinter’s first try at yoga.  Try mowing your yard at about a third of your normal speed and you will see what I mean. Row crop cultivation is fairly high stakes too, one moment’s inattention can wipe out several rows. For this reason, it is a high-value job that can’t be left for the low man on the totem pole while everyone else goes to the lake.

I hope issues with Dicamba get resolved before the next planting season. If they don’t, row crop cultivators may be one popular display at the next farm show you attend-virtual or not. One thing, cultivating in between rows will save you dollar on all of those yoga lessons.


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