Prepared with the guidance of forestry engineer Eugenio Escobar Manrique, the manual describes in its different stages of development the main weeds of the cane in the Cauca river valley.
In the late 1950s, in fields in the Cauca River valley cultivated with sugar cane, sorghum, soybeans, cotton, corn, and rice, a group of agricultural scholars set about describing plants that grew wild 'by stealing 'space for crops and reported 65 species of weeds.
Then, in 1978, on a new tour of the region, they identified another 85. Later, in 2010, an inventory of cane produced 217 species.
“When many cattle ranches were converted to cane fields, weeds emerged in these crops that were associated with paddocks. Also, when many rice plantations were replaced by sugarcane, the so-called 'weeds' habituated to too much humidity appeared ”, explains the forest engineer Eugenio Escobar, professor emeritus of the National University and who has dedicated his life to the study of weeds.
Of course, as the crop spread, reaching the banks of the Cauca River and the foothills, new species of weeds appeared in the cane fields and the relationship of these plants to water, soil and environment changed. "The treadmill in the foothills is not the same as in the flat area of the valley," says the professor.
"That is why," he adds, "to manage weeds you have to start with your correct determination." That first information will be available in the Manual for the recognition of weeds in sugar cane in which Professor Escobar works under the auspices of Cenicaña.
The document includes the 50 most important weed species of cane cultivation in the region, defined by their frequency in the field and their impact on different sites in the Cauca River valley. For this, it was based on previous studies and the experience of technicians from the mills.
Unlike Tropical weeds, agriculture's 'battle' manual for weed management since the 1970s, the new publication will incorporate images and descriptions of plants in their small, young, and adult stages, making it easier to identification in the field for later management and control.
According to the professor, weed management must combine manual, mechanical and chemical controls and integrate them with the management of pests and diseases; the key is to decrease the percentage of losses associated with those, without eliminating them entirely because some may be harmful but others may not. “In my opinion there is no harmful plant in the world. The only harmful plant is that of the human foot ”, he adds.
Thus, the application of herbicides will be carried out in accordance with the ecology and physiology of the plant without the need to 'pave' the crops and it will be understood why in some cases cutting it with a scythe or machete may be the wrong alternative.
According to Javier Carbonell, director of the Cenicaña Agronomy Program and manager of this initiative, the publication is expected to be ready before the end of 2017. In addition to the description of the 50 species, it will include an illustrated glossary and a photographic annex of a dozen more. "Without a doubt, the Manual will be a fundamental tool to make agronomic management more responsible with the environment and to contribute to reducing the impact of weeds on the productivity of our crop," he says.