Weed Management in Garlic Farming: How to Control With Organic, Cultural, and Mechanical Methods

Weed management is crucial when growing garlic, as the plants compete poorly with weeds, especially during early development. Weeds can cause significant yield losses, up to 80%, and affect the quality of cloves. Integrated weed management is essential, and methods vary based on country, production practices, and industry requirements.

Weed Management in Garlic Farming

Some farmers use black mats to cover the soil between plant rows, preventing weed growth and increasing soil temperature. Others apply mulch or perform pre-planting plowing to eliminate weeds. Shallow cultivation and hand hoeing can control weeds without harming garlic bulbs. Herbicides like chloral-dimethyl are used post-planting, but all applications should be done before bulb development. 

Garlic is India’s second most cultivated crop after onions, with 2.42 lakh hectares producing 12.28 lakh tonnes at a 5.07 t/ha productivity. Weed infestation poses a significant challenge due to garlic’s non-branching habit, sparse foliage, and shallow roots. Manual weeding is laborious and expensive, necessitating straw mulch and herbicides for effective weed control.

Weed Management in Garlic Farming

Organic Weed Control Methods for Garlic Farming

Organic weed control methods for maintaining soil health and producing high-quality garlic crops without relying on synthetic chemicals. Techniques include mulching, hand weeding, cover cropping, crop rotation, flame weeding, vinegar-based herbicides, and corn gluten meal. Mulching blocks sunlight and reduces weed germination, while hand weeding is simple and effective. 

Cover cropping prevents soil erosion and improves fertility. Crop rotation with weed-suppressive crops disrupts weed life cycles and reduces populations. Flame weeding uses propane torches or flame weeders to heat weeds, while vinegar-based herbicides contain acetic acid for spot treatments. Corn gluten meal, a natural pre-emergent herbicide, prevents weed seeds from germinating.

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Garlic Gardening

Chemical-free Weed Management in Garlic Cultivation

Chemical-free weed management in garlic cultivation is essential for sustainable and eco-friendly farming practices. Garlic plants face strong competition from weeds, especially during early growth stages, leading to reduced yields and lower clove quality.

  1. Mulching: Garlic farmers can cover the soil between plant rows with black mats or apply organic mulch (5-7.5 cm or 2-3 inches). Mulching suppresses weed growth while retaining soil moisture and temperature.
  2. Pre-planting Tillage: Before planting, perform one pre-planting plowing or tillage to prepare the seedbed and eliminate perennial weeds, reducing weed pressure.
  3. Stale Seedbed Technique: Control annual weeds using the stale seedbed technique, which involves preparing the seedbed and allowing weeds to germinate 2-4 weeks before planting. Then, remove the emerging weeds before planting garlic.
  4. Fumigation: Fumigation can reduce weed seed viability in fields with severe weed issues.
  5. Shallow Cultivation and Hand Hoeing: After garlic emergence, shallow cultivation can control weeds between rows, and hand hoeing can manage weeds between garlic plants without damaging the bulbs and shallow root system.
  6. Crop Rotation: Incorporating competitive, fast-growing crops in rotation with garlic can help reduce weed pressure and weed populations in the field.

Integrated Weed Management Practices for Garlic Farms

Integrated weed management is for successful garlic production due to their unique challenges in planting densities and vulnerability to weed competition. These slow-growing, shallow-rooted crops are planted at high densities and can suffer significant yield losses from weed competition. Their narrow leaves make them poor competitors against weeds, and their long growing season allows for multiple weed flushes.

Limited registered herbicides and high labor costs for hand weeding make weed control challenging. Effective integrated weed management involves reducing weed pressure before planting, using techniques like the stale seedbed method, weed-free seed, or soil solarization. Controlling existing weeds before they produce seeds is also essential. Monitoring fields and recording weed species throughout the growing season helps choose suitable fields and track hard-to-control weeds.

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Garlic Seedlings

Planting in weed-free fields and avoiding areas with persistent perennial weeds is advised. If weedy fields must be used, control weeds during fallow periods using techniques like stale seedbeds, herbicide application, or shallow tillage. Nonchemical options primarily apply during pre-plant, where early timing is crucial for effective weed control.

Mulching Techniques for Weed Suppression in Garlic Fields

Mulching techniques are highly effective for weed suppression in garlic fields, promoting efficient and eco-friendly weed management. Garlic plants are vulnerable to weed competition, especially during early growth stages. Mulching helps to create a weed-free environment by blocking weed germination and growth, conserving soil moisture, and regulating soil temperature.

Various mulching materials, such as organic mulch (5-7.5 cm or 2-3 inches) or unique black mats placed between plant rows and around young plants, can be used. The black mat prevents weed development while increasing soil temperature, promoting garlic growth. Mulching reduces the labor and cost of manual weeding and enhances garlic yields and clove quality.

Pre-emergence Herbicides for Weed Control in Garlic Farming

  • Pre-emergence herbicides are an essential tool for weed control in garlic farming, especially during the pre-plant period. They effectively suppress weed growth and ensure garlic crops have a weed-free environment. 
  • Garlic plants are slow-growing and vulnerable to weed competition, making early weed control crucial for successful crop establishment.
  • Several pre-emergence herbicides are available for use in garlic fields. Glyphosate and paraquat effectively control emerging weeds before planting, particularly perennial weeds. 
  • Metam sodium is an excellent choice for fields with persistent perennial weed issues, as it can destroy most weeds.
  • Timing is critical for pre-emergence herbicide application, as small weed seedlings are easier to control than larger weeds. Proper timing ensures maximum efficacy and minimizes the need for post-emergence weed management, reducing labor and costs.
  • While herbicides are an effective weed control option, growers must be cautious about restrictions and consider their impacts on rotational crops. 
  • In organically certified crops, nonherbicidal methods such as the stale seedbed technique and cultivation are essential for weed management in garlic fields.
  • Pre-emergence herbicides and good cultural practices provide comprehensive weed control for garlic production.

Post-emergence Herbicides for Effective Weed Management in Garlic

  1. Flaming: Flaming can kill weed flushes between seeding and crop emergence. It is effective on crops with slow seed germination but may be limited in onions with quick germination.
  2. Foliar-applied Herbicides: Herbicides may be used to control established weeds after crop emergence. Layby herbicides are applied to clean-cultivated soil to keep the crop weed-free until harvest.
  3. Pre-emergence Herbicides: Pre-emergence herbicides require irrigation for activation. DCPA, bensulide, ethofumesate, and pendimethalin can be used for pre-emergence weed control in garlic.
  4. Post-emergence Herbicides: Several herbicides, including grass-selective herbicides, can be used for post-emergence weed control in both onion and garlic.
  5. Effective post-emergence herbicides and cultural practices are essential for maintaining weed-free garlic fields and ensuring successful crop development.

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Harvesting Garlic

Cultural Practices to Minimize Weed Growth in Garlic Cultivation

  1. Proper Plant Spacing: Ensure adequate spacing between garlic plants to reduce competition for sunlight, water, and nutrients, which can suppress weed growth.
  2. Mulching: Apply straw mulch (5-7.5 cm or 2-3 inches) to cover the soil between garlic rows, preventing weed development and maintaining soil moisture.
  3. Stale Seedbed Technique: Prepare the seedbed before planting and allow weeds to germinate. Cultivate or apply shallow tillage to control emerged weeds before planting garlic.
  4. Crop Rotation: Rotate garlic with competitive, fast-growing crops to reduce weed pressure and disrupt the weed lifecycle.
  5. Soil Solarization: Use clear plastic to trap heat and disinfect the soil, killing weed seeds, vegetative structures, and disease-causing pathogens.
  6. Timely Cultivation: Employ precision cultivation to remove weed seedlings as close to the seed row as possible without disturbing the crop.
  7. Post-emergence Herbicides: Use appropriate post-emergence herbicides to control established weeds without harming the garlic crop.

Mechanical Weed Control Methods for Garlic Farms

  1. Hand Weeding: Hand weeding involves manually removing weeds from the garlic fields, but it can be labor-intensive and costly.
  2. Cultivation: Using tools or machinery to cultivate soil can uproot and control weeds, especially between garlic rows.
  3. Flaming: Flaming uses heat to kill weeds by passing a flame over the weed foliage. It is effective for controlling small weeds.
  4. Cover Crops: Planting cover crops in rotation with garlic can suppress weed growth and compete for resources.

Cover Cropping for Weed Suppression in Garlic Fields

Cover cropping is an effective weed management strategy in garlic fields, particularly in the fall before planting. It provides weed suppression benefits, such as rapid ground cover and weed seed reduction. Selecting competitive cover crop species like cereal rye, white mustard, or Indian mustard can provide complete ground cover within the first 30 days of growth, inhibiting weed growth and limiting sunlight and nutrient access. 

Cover crops also reduce weed seed pressure by decreasing the amount of weed seed in the soil, outcompeting weeds, and preventing seed setting. Timing is crucial when using cover crops for weed suppression, ensuring they are established quickly to effectively suppress weeds before planting. By incorporating cover crops in garlic fields, growers can effectively suppress weed growth, enhance soil health, and improve garlic yield and quality.

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Garlic Plants

Companion Planting Strategies to Reduce Weeds in Garlic Farming

To reduce weeds in garlic farming, consider using companion planting strategies such as intercropping alliums, leguminous cover crops, intercropping fast-growing vegetables, using low-growing ground covers, using marigolds as a barrier, adopting the “Three Sisters” planting technique, and avoiding weed-friendly companions. 

These strategies help suppress weed growth, enrich the soil, and deter pests. Additionally, combining corn, beans, and squash with garlic can provide nitrogen and shade the soil, reducing weeds. Avoiding weed-friendly companions can effectively manage and minimize garlic, reducing weed growth and pests.

Herbicide-resistant Weed Management in Garlic Cultivation

Herbicide-resistant weeds pose a significant challenge in garlic cultivation, limiting the effectiveness of conventional herbicides. Integrated weed management strategies are essential. These include crop rotation, herbicide rotation, tank mixing, pre-emergence herbicides, nonchemical methods like cultivation, mulching, hand weeding, and targeted application. 

These strategies help break the weed lifecycle, reduce herbicide pressure, and improve weed control. By incorporating these strategies, garlic cultivation can be more effective and less resistant to herbicide-resistant weeds.

Biological Control Options for Weed Suppression in Garlic Fields

Biological control options for weed suppression in garlic fields include cover crops, allelopathy, biological herbicides, livestock grazing, soil microorganisms, weed-eating insects, and mulching with plant residues. Cover crops, allelochemicals, bioherbicides, livestock grazing, beneficial soil microorganisms, weed-eating insects, and mulching with plant residues can help outcompete weeds and suppress their growth. 

These strategies are environmentally friendly and can help maintain healthy garlic plants. Additionally, using specific insect species that feed on weeds can provide biological weed control, reducing weed populations in garlic fields.

Weed Identification and Monitoring Techniques for Garlic Farms

To effectively manage garlic fields, one must familiarize oneself with common weeds such as Bermuda grass, Nutsedge, Field bindweed, Field Pennycress, Johnsongrass, Bathua, Clovers, and Canada thistle. Regularly inspect garlic fields for weed presence and maintain detailed weed monitoring records.

Implement weed control measures like black mat and mulch, pre-planting plowing, stale seedbed technique, post-emergence cultivation, and hand hoeing to eliminate perennial weeds and prevent damage to bulbs and shallow root systems. By following these techniques, garlic farms can effectively manage their weed population and maintain a healthy garlic crop.

Crop Rotation Strategies to Minimize Weeds in Garlic Cultivation

Crop rotation strategies to minimize weeds in garlic cultivation involve alternating garlic with different non-allium crops, disrupting weed life cycles. Legumes like peas or beans fix nitrogen and suppress weeds. Brassicas like cabbage or mustard release compounds that inhibit weed growth.

Additionally, planting cover crops like rye or oats between garlic cycles helps smother weeds. Crop rotation reduces weed populations, prevents weed adaptation, and enhances soil health, minimizing herbicide needs. Proper planning and diversifying crops can effectively manage weed infestations, improving garlic yield and quality.

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Garlic Seedlings in the Garden

Weed Management Plans and Strategies for Sustainable Garlic Farming

Weed management plans and strategies for sustainable garlic farming involve a combination of cultural, mechanical, and chemical practices. Culturally, crop rotation with non-allium plants disrupts weed life cycles, reducing weed pressure. Mechanical methods like hand weeding or hoeing target weed removal.

Mulching suppresses weed growth and conserves soil moisture. Cover cropping and intercropping help compete against weeds. Additionally, integrated weed management integrates these practices with the judicious use of herbicides, applying them at the right time and in appropriate doses.

Garlic Weed Control by Most Used Chemicals

  • Garlic farmers can use preplant, pre-emergent, post-emergent, and row middle weed control strategies to minimize competition and enhance crop yields sustainably. 
  • Preplant weed control involves glyphosate or paraquat targeting annual and perennial grass and broadleaf weeds, while carfentrazone-ethyl is effective against most broadleaf weeds less than 4 inches tall. 
  • Pre-emergent weed control uses bensulide for managing annual grasses and small-seeded broadleaf weeds, while post-emergent methods include oxyfluorfen for residual control of weeds like henbit, purslane, and smartweed. 
  • Row middle weed control involves glyphosate and sulfentrazone-ethyl, targeting most emerged and broadleaf weeds less than 4 inches tall. Using appropriate herbicides, dosages, and modes of action minimizes weed pressures, promoting healthier crops and sustainable farming practices.


Effective weed management in garlic farming involves a combination of preplant, pre-emergent, post-emergent, and row middle strategies using appropriate herbicides. This approach minimizes weed competition, enhances garlic yields, and promotes sustainable farming practices.


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