How can I control shattercane in my organic fields without using chemicals?

J.W.MissouriAnswer: Below is a link to a Nebraska Extension publication, Shattercane and Its Control. This is the only Extension publication that talks about non-chemical control.The relevant pages cited in Jay L. McCaman’s self-published book, Weeds and Why They Grow, identify the specific soil characteristics preferred by many common weeds. Low organic matter is one of shattercane’s preferences, and this might be one area that you can manipulate over time. As an organic grower, you’re probably already using many practices to build soil organic matter, such as adding compost or manure, cover cropping, and green manuring. You might add needed micronutrients (if your soil test shows deficits), but improving your soil structure will be the better investment.Increased biological activity in the soil affects the persistence of shattercane seed. This fact supports an effort to increase soil organic matter, since biological activity is usually closely correlated with increased organic matter. You might consider buying compost tea and Effective Micro-organisms (EM) to increase the biological activity of your soil. You can call ATTRA for more information on these materials. Besides monitoring your organic matter through soil tests, you can use earthworm numbers as a quick method to determine whether you’re making progress. Your earthworm population will increase as does your soil organic matter and the biological activity in that soil. You can take a shovelful of soil and count the worms in it. You will be able to check trends if you do this count at the same time every year.This isn’t a quick fix for the shattercane problem, but it might provide some clues to the weak link in this noxious weed’s life cycle.Library and Internet searches failed to turn up any work on biological control agents for shattercane. Even though shattercane is one of the top-ten noxious weeds worldwide, its close genetic relationship to crop sorghum would inhibit any targeted biological effort against it. ResourcesBuhler, Douglas D. 1999. Expanding the Context of Weed Management. Food Products Press, New York, NY. 289 p.Roeth, Fred, Alex Martin, and Robert Klein. 1996. Shattercane and Its Control. G94-1205-A NebGuide. Cooperative Extension Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Nebraska-Lincoln. 6 p., Jay L. 1994. Weeds and Why They Grow. Jay L. McCaman, Sand Lake, MI. p. 42-44, 81-82.

Order from: Jay McCaman Box 22 Sand Lake, MI 49343 [This was still available from Mr. McCaman for $24 as of January 2005].

Sullivan, Preston G. n.d. Organic Herbicides. ATTRA. Fayetteville, AR. 6 p.