Cutting weed control costs: reduce hand weeding with herbicides

June 08, 2017 

With the high cost of hand labor, coupled with the challenge of finding workers, many nurseries have turned to automation. It’s a smart solution that improves the bottom line for growers.

Another smart, cost-effective solution is the use of herbicides.
“Studies show cost reductions for grower operations that utilize herbicides,” says Dr. Joe Neal, Professor of Weed Science at North Carolina State University. “The savings are even greater for growers that choose the most efficacious products.” A large-plot trial on nursery sites concluded that it costs about 42 cents per pot to control weeds by hand weeding alone versus 17 cents per pot when herbicides are used. If the herbicide is highly effective, the weed control costs can drop to only 2 cents per pot.

Saving time is an equally important factor when weighing the use of hand weeding alone in comparison with hand weeding as a supplement to the use of herbicides. In the chart below, the difference in time between weeding non-treated pots versus weeding pots treated with herbicides is notably dramatic.

Preemergence herbicides control weeds and reduce time spent hand weeding. Average time spent weeding in a nursery experiment in 2007.

The following strategies are recommended for reducing weed-control costs:

  • Choose effective preemergence herbicides.
  • Apply herbicides at the right time, uniformly and accurately.
  • Rely on proper sanitation to keep weeds from spreading.
  • Remove weeds before they set seed, which will reduce overall labor costs.

To learn more about weed control strategies, view Dr. Neal’s BASF weed control webinars.

Neal, Dr. Joseph C., “Reducing Weed Control Costs in Container Nursery Crops Field Day Handout – 2016,”
North Carolina State Extension,
Neal, Dr. Joseph C., “It’s Only Money! An Economic Comparison of Weed Control Options,” 2001 NC
Nursery Short Course, page 31.

Last Update Jun 27, 2018