An Ancient Practice on an Ancient Crop: Hand Weeding Lentils



The lentil is a bushy annual plant grown for its edible seeds. Lentils have been part of the human diet since Neolithic times, being one of the first crops domesticated in the Near East. Lentils are an essential source of inexpensive protein in many parts of the world. Health magazine has selected lentils as one of the five healthiest foods. The ancient practice of hand weeding lentils is no longer practical.

“Lentil is among few legume species adapted well to dry conditions in traditional rainfed cereal based farming system in Turkey. Due to extensive government support for the production of lentils in order to reduce large areas left annually to fallow, its acreage and production have sharply increased over the last two decades. Currently, lentil is grown on 517,000 ha land in dry areas and its production reached 380,000 t. However, long term national yield increased only marginally in consequence of unfavorable cultural practices, especially weed control.

Lentils because of their small stature do not grow tall and do not build up a protective canopy to prevent establishment of weeds. Therefore, lentils are poor competitors and good weed control is essential for successful production… Yield losses due to weeds in lentil of 40-80% have been reported.

Hand weeding is practiced in traditional production areas, but is impractical in the extensive production areas. Hand weeding is labor-intensive and therefore an expensive operation when done by hired labour and, if delayed, the operation does not prevent adverse effect of the weeds on crop yield. The use of appropriate herbicides can eliminate this early weed competition and prevent yield losses. It is therefore necessary that effective herbicides should be used to reduce unwanted competition.

In conclusion, two years of trials showed that herbicide applications considerably increased lentil yields compared with the unweeded control under Erzurum’s dry conditions.”

Authors: Elkoca, E., et al.
Affiliation: Department of Plant Pathology, Ataturk University, Turkey.
Title: Effects of chemical and agronomical weed control treatments on weed density, yield and yield parameters of lentil.
Source: Asian Journal of Plant Sciences. 2004. 3[2]:187-192.

Birds Prefer Conventionally Grown Wheat Due to Higher Protein Levels

There is considerable debate about the merits of consuming organic foods. Some studies have found that certain animal species prefer to eat organically-grown crops. However, these results have been challenged by a recent study…

“One key reason why consumers buy organic food is because they consider it to be better for human and animal health. Reviews comparing organic and conventional food have stated that organic food is preferred by bird and mammals in choice tests. This study shows the opposite result – that captive birds in the laboratory and wild garden birds both consumed more conventional than organic wheat when given free choice. There was a lag in preference formation during which time birds learnt to distinguish between the two food types, which is likely to explain why the present results differ from those of previous studies.”

“A further experiment confirmed that, of 16 potential causal factors, detection by birds of consistently higher levels of protein in conventional seeds (a common difference between many organic and conventional foodstuffs) is the likely mechanism behind this pattern. The results of this study suggest that the current dogma that organic food is preferred to conventional food may not always be true, which is of considerable importance for consumer perceptions of organically grown food.”

Authors: A.J. McKenzie and M.J. Whittingham
Affiliation: School of Biology, Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
Title: Birds select conventional over organic wheat when given free choice.
Publication: Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture. (2010) 90:1861-1869.