ASK Jeff: The Rodale Institute’s farm manager, Jeff Moyer, answers your hardcore farming questions

Can you tell me more about using vinegar as an herbicide?

Posted June 15, 2007

What Jeff brings to the table

Jeff Moyer, who’s been the farm manager here at the 333-acre Rodale Institute research farm for more than a quarter of a century, receives lots of mail from farmers just like you asking for advice. Jeff’s hands-in-the-dirt experience over the past 26 years has run the gamut from refining the farm's cover cropping and crop rotation systems (including managing 270 acres in a rotation of corn, small grains, hay, and edible soy beans for a Japanese market) to overseeing The Rodale Institue Farming Systems Trial®, the world’s longest running side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional agriculture. We thought it would be fun and informative to share some of these farmer-to-farmer exchanges, and Jeff’s practical wisdom, with our readers … and we’ll be doing it on a regular basis.

Got a question of your own? Click here to send it to Jeff.

Dear Jeff,

I read in a recent article about using vinegar as an herbicide. Can you tell more about it, especially where you can get a 30-percent solution of vinegar? I would like to trial it on our organic plots, but it is very hard to find.

Ron McCoy


Dear Ron,

Here is my personal take on vinegar as an herbicide: First, my feeling is that using any purchased input as an herbicide—or merely substituting a natural product for a synthetic chemical herbicide—is still “product thinking,” not “process thinking.” Second, in order to be organic, you should use organic food-grade vinegar—what a waste. And lastly, it’s hard to get and very expensive.

On the contrary, a weed-management strategy based on crop rotation, tillage, cover crops and soil management is cost effective, sustainable and process-oriented. This mean weeds can’t mutate out of the management system, and while the rate of control can be variable based on your skills, it can be very successful.

If you still want to try the vinegar on a trial basis, I suggest you find a food processor in your area that uses organic vinegar and offer to purchase a set quantity from them. That’s what we did for the small trial we ran several years ago. This proved to be somewhat cost effective.

Best of luck,