New weed control methods in organic orchards

Last changed: 06 December 2023

Particularly mechanical weed control and grass cutting

Project manager: David Hansson, Department of Biosystems and Technology, SLU.

The overall aim of the project is to assess whether some new methods for weed control in organic apple production (primarily the Sandwich system) can provide increased financial returns compared with mechanical weed control and manual weeding.

The project is an interdisciplinary research project studying the effects of different types of ground treatments in apple orchards (particularly mechanical weed control and grass cutting) on e.g. fruit quality and tree growth.

In practical trials, the influence of some important parameters will be investigated, i.e.:

  •  weed cover
  •  time of harvest
  •  quality and quantity of apples produced
  •  storability and tree growth

The aim of this project is to study the effects of different parameters in practical trials comparing two models of the Sandwich system with traditional cropping. The project will study a range of cropping systems, from completely bare ground within tree rows to the Sandwich system (living mulch within rows of apples trees, combined with mechanical weed control between rows) and to a full covering of short-clipped grass on the entire surface.

The hypothesis underlying this research project is that it is possible to reduce costs and energy use for weed control in organic orchards using the Sandwich system compared with traditional techniques with open ground under the trees, while maintaining yields, fruit quality, tree growth and total income.


Scientists working at Forschungs-institut für Biologischen Landbau in Switzerland have developed a so-called Sandwich system, which reduces the disadvantages associated with mechanical weed control within tree rows. The system involves sowing a 30-50 cm wide band of weakly growing vegetation (grass and herbaceous plants) in the centre of the tree row. On each side of this band, the ground is kept bare by mechanical cultivation. The advantage of the system is that there is no damage to tree trunks and roots. Mechanical weed control can be carried out using simple and robust machines and at greater capacities.