Cucurbits (including melons, cucumbers and gherkins, pumpkins, squash and zucchini) represent an important component of the Australian vegetable industry and are grown in all states and territories. However, the potential for weed growth and subsequent interference with the crop remains high in cucurbit production systems. The reasons for this include frequent cultivation and irrigation, high nutritional inputs, the sprawling growth habit of cucurbit vines, and lack of registered herbicide options. Developing integrated and sustainable weed management systems in cucurbit crops is therefore considered a high industry priority. We sought to address this priority by determining: the impact of weeds on cucurbit production; the weed species causing the greatest difficulty; the weed control approaches being used and their success; alternative non-herbicidal weed control options; and potential new herbicide options. Effective integrated weed management in Australian cucurbit production incorporates cultivation, herbicides (pre- and post-plant), plastic mulch, manual weeding, and crop rotation. Using such strategies diligently, and with appropriate timing, can restrict weeds to the extent they have a negligible impact on crop yield and quality. However the longer term viability of this strategy is threatened by environmental drawbacks from the use of plastic mulch, and by a lack of herbicide options. We therefore recommend exploration of potentially useful herbicide options. We also recommend greater adoption of innovative techniques, including biodegradable mulch, stale and false seedbeds, global positioning system technology, and effective farm hygiene.
Cite this article as:
Coleman, M.J., Sindel, B.M., Kristiansen, P. and Henderson, C.W.L. (2015). Survey of weed impact, management, and research priorities in Australian cucurbit production. Plant Protection Quarterly, 30(1), 12-20.