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Maybe Weeds Are Afraid Of The Dark

Thu., Jan. 4, 1996

Plowing at night can dramatically reduce the number of weeds competing with farm crops.

“We have seen reductions in weed emergence as great as 80 percent” after plowing in the dark, said Douglas D. Buhler of the Agriculture Department’s Agricultural Research Service.

If results of initial research are confirmed, nighttime plowing “has the potential to reduce reliance on chemicals in weed management,” Buhler told USDA’s “Agricultural Research” magazine.

The theory is simple enough: Light penetrates the soil as it is being turned, allowing buried weed seeds to break out of dormancy. With some types of weeds, denying light at the time of plowing reduces sprouting.

“We’re talking about working in absolute darkness,” Buhler said. “Just a brief exposure to a little light from tractors or possibly a full moon may trigger weed seeds to sprout like they do in daylight.”

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