A machine used to harvest peanuts may help organic growers manage nutsedge, a prolific weed that can significantly reduce yields.
Growers of conventional crops can turn to herbicides to help fight the weed, but organic growers don't have that option.
Nutsedge gets its name from the underground nutlets that generate new weeds.
A peanut digger digs inches below the ground and uproots peanuts for harvest.
It thrives in bright sunlight and is prevalent in fields with a lot of spacing between rows or between plants in a row, such as tomatoes and peppers.
Carroll Johnson, a U.S. Department of Agriculture scientist working at the University of Georgia, Tifton, campus, says he believes the same principles can be applied to nutsedge control.
Originally, he had planned to use the digger to uproot the weeds, dropping them in the field to dry in the hot sun.
But heavy rains caused the weeds to re-root.
Enlisting help from senior mechanical engineering students from Auburn, they attached a cart to the digger where the uprooted nutsedge can be dropped and removed from the field.
Johnson estimates the peanut digger controls about 60 percent of nutsedge in a field. Adding the cart improves that to 80 percent to 85 percent control.
But Johnson is shooting for 90 percent control. The goal is to reduce the number of nutlets to a management level, thereby reducing the overall nutsedge pressure.
He will return next year to see how much nutsedge returns, whether multiple passes through a field are required and pinpoint the best timing for uprooting the nutsedge.