Non-Chemical Weed Management in Apple Orchards



Non-Chemical Weed Management in Apple Orchards


Terence Bradshaw


Overview of non-chemical methods available for managing in-row weeds in northeastern U.S. apple orchards, including mowing, mulching, cultivation, cover crops, and flame weeding.

Learning goals for the item

1. Understand options available for weed management in northeastern U.S. apple orchards. 2. Outline benefits and drawbacks associated with specific practices in terms of crop productivity and soil quality. 3. Describe important considerations for implementation of each practice presented.

Appropriate audience

Apple growers, organic farmers, Extension and other outreach professionals, home orchardists.

A list of references (key references - cited or suggested)

Merwin, I. A., & Stiles, W. C. (1994). Orchard groundcover management impacts on apple tree growth and yield, and nutrient availability and uptake. Journal of the American Society for Horticultural Science, 119(2), 209-215.

Merwin, I. A., Ray, J. A., & Curtis, P. D. (1999). Orchard Groundcover Management Systems Affect Meadow Vole Populations and Damage to Apple Trees. HortScience, 34(2), 271-274.

Merwin, I. A. (2003). Orchard Floor Management Systems. In D. Ferree & I. Warrington (Eds.), Apples: botany, production, and uses (pp. 303-318). Cambridge, MA: CABI.

Shrestha, A., Moretti, M., & Mourad, N. (2012). Evaluation of thermal implements and organic herbicides for weed control in a nonbearing almond (Prunus dulcis) orchard. Weed Technology, 26(1), 110-116.

Granatstein, D., Andrews, P., & Groff, A. (2014). Productivity, economics, and fruit and soil quality of weed management systems in commercial organic orchards in Washington State, USA. Organic agriculture, 4(3), 197-207.

Keywords (separate keywords or phrases with a comma)

groundcover management, organic, apple, mulch, cultivation

Review Summary

This 4-page fact sheet is a brief treatment of the topic in a straightforward presentation style. It is well illustrated with photos and provides useful information for northeastern U.S. apple growers in an easy to read format. The fact sheet highlights some of the common weed and ground cover management practices used by organic growers. Strategies for implementing mowing, flame weeding, cover crops, cultivation and mowing are covered. Herbicide use is mentioned as a part of tree row management, but herbicide options are not listed as they are beyond the scope of the fact sheet. A final paragraph discussing how practices can be combined is useful for the grower. A chart presents the weed management method, relative cost, effectiveness, advantages and disadvantages in an easy to understand format. This is not an in-depth treatment of the subject and does not give compelling reasons for conventional growers to move away from synthetic herbicides. One reviewer felt the fact sheet lacked the depth necessary to translate practices into actionable items. It is a useful fact sheet to introduce the components of non-chemical weed management to apple growers, organic farmers, extension professionals and home orchardists.

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“Non-Chemical Weed Management in Apple Orchards,” ASHS HortIM™, accessed August 23, 2019,


Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.