Question of the Week
Answer: The researcher who has done the most work with corn gluten meal as a natural pre-emergence herbicide is Dr. Nick Christians at Iowa State University Department of Horticulture. Dr. Christians has looked at its use on turf (as for a golf course, for example) and organic crop production. The Resources section below identifies five useful articles on Dr. Christians’ website that will shed some light on this topic.
Others also have used corn gluten meal on pasture. You should check into the cost and read through the articles identified below to get a better sense of the benefits and limitations of using corn gluten meal as a pre-emergence herbicide. Among the more important benefits:
• Corn gluten meal is a natural fertilizer as well as a natural herbicide, contributing about 10% nitrogen to the soil
• Corn gluten meal is safe to use
However, there are also limitations, including:
• Timing is important; must be applied before germination and it works for five to six weeks
• Moisture is important; it has to get wet to activate (within five days of application, according to Dr. Christians), but then you don’t want it to stay wet.
There is another limitation, which may or may not be a concern for you. If you depend on self-seeding crabgrass and clovers, you would not want to inhibit their germination. Applying a pre-emergence herbicide will also inhibit germination of valuable plants.
What weeds are most problematic on your farm? If your grazing animals are not keeping them under control, is it because of toxicity of the weeds, or some other reason? Would it be helpful to change your grazing patterns by concentrating more animals on the pasture for a shorter time, to encourage the animals to clean up the weeds?
Considering other alternatives may be warranted. If you decide to try the corn gluten meal, see the warning from Dr. Christians to “get the real thing,” not corn gluten feed or distillers grain.
Christians, Nick. www.hort.iastate.edu/research/gluten
•Corn meal research
•How to use corn gluten meal
•The use of corn gluten meal as a natural preemergence weed control in turf
•Get the real thing
•A natural product for the control of annual weeds
Garrett, Howard. 2011. Corn gluten meal – Updated information 2011. June. www.dirtdoctor.com/Corn-Gluten-Meal-Updated-Information-2011_vq17.htm
Trimmer-May, Denice. 2000. Optimal amount of corn gluten meal for weed control and soil amendment qualities in organic production of strawberries. SARE Final Report. Project Number FNC98-244. http://mysare.sare.org/MySare/ProjectReport.aspx?do=viewRept&pn=FNC98-244&t=0&y=1998
eHow. No date. How to use corn gluten to fertilize pastures. http://www.ehow.com/how_5188090_use-corn-gluten-fertilize-pastures.html
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