WESLACO — “If you stand there long enough, that nut grass could probably grow through your foot,” jokes Dr. Lynn Brandenberger, a vegetable specialist at the Texas A&M Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Weslaco.
Nut grass is just one of the many vigorous and hardy weeds that cause major problems for growers in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Weeds of all kinds compete with crops for everything that promotes healthy plant life, including sunshine, water, fertilizers, and the minerals and nutrients naturally found in soils.
But nut grass is especially persistent, often growing right through the plastic mulches used by melon growers in South Texas to cover their planting beds.
“One of the reasons for the plastic sheeting,” said Brandenberger, “is to deter weed growth. And it does a good job against most weeds, but nut grass is the exception.”
To help combat the problem, Brandenberger is setting out several melon herbicide trials. He’ll be evaluating some new chemicals for use in furrows, or between the plastic-covered beds, as well as screening some pre-emergent herbicides that are sprayed on the soil to keep some of these troublesome weeds from ever coming up.
“When we evaluate new herbicides, our objective is two-fold,” Brandenberger said. “We want to determine how effective these new products are in controlling weeds, and we want to see if they affect the crop in any way.”
Brandenberger said that of the products in this year’s herbicide trials, some are especially interesting.
“Some of these herbicides have chemistries that require very low application doses, some as low as only one-half ounce per acre,” he said. “That’s very good news for several reasons, including ease of handling by growers, and the fact that they’re much more environmentally-friendly than other products that must be used in much higher quantities.”
Brandenberger is working with several others in these herbicide trials, including Omar Montemayor, an Extension agent in Starr County, David LaGrange, a grower at La Casita Farms in Starr County and a long-time supporter of the Weslaco center’s research activities, Dr. Ron Talbert, a weed scientist at the University of Arkansas, and Dr. Bob Wiedenfeld, a soils scientist with the Texas Agricultural Experiment Station in Weslaco.