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Soft rag: effective weeding and problems in agriculture. Botanical description of the species.
If for us Italians thesoft ragit is only a weed, in other places around the globe the plant is used for food. Did you know that it can be used in the kitchen or in the textile industry?
In China, a material similar to jute is obtained from the vegetable fiber obtained from this plant. This material is used to prepare raw fabrics, ropes, nets… and much more.
The more tender leaves as well as the seeds are edible (eaten). In particular, the seeds are widely used in Chinese cuisine and in Kashmir (a geographical region that includes, in addition to China, India and Pakistan as well).
Thesoft rag, also known as Altea di Teoprasto, botanical name Abutilon theophrasti,it's aherbaceous plantbelonging to the Malvaceae family.
It's about aweedvery difficult to get rid of. It has an annual cycle: it tends to grow in humid and uncultivated soils, even at the edges of gardens, irrigation canals and ditches. It is a very resistant weed plant, with moist soil, it can grow between one crop and another in the garden. It grows up to 300 meters of altitude.
This plant is a strong onehauntedespecially forcultivationin spring-summer cycle. It is found in all regions of Italy, although much more rarely in Puglia.
How does it spread? The plant produces numerous seeds that are dispersed during the mechanical processing typical of agricultural land.
The plant easily exceeds one meter in height. It has very consistent leaves, almost velvety. The leaves have a characteristic heart shape and are about 15cm wide. As temperatures rise in early summer, the plant begins to produce flowers. THEsoft rag flowersthey are yellow and about 4 cm in diameter.
From the flowers develops a fruit formed by several mericarps arranged in a radial formation. It is from the fruits that the seeds are dispersed in nature. The seeds have a vague "heart" shape, they are small: they measure from 3 mm to 3.5 mm.
Why thesoft ragit's aweedso feared?
In each fruit there can also be more than200 soft rag seeds,ready to thrive in the garden or in the fields!
It is clear that a single plant, if ignored and not managed promptly and with the right rooting conditions, can give rise to an infestation that will soon require a weedingtargeted.
Soft rag: weeding
Thesoft ragit is hated by farmers, especially by the farm that produces corn or soy. Since it is a feared pest, yoursweedingit is often the focus of debate.
On the market there are specific herbicides, very powerful and formulated forsoft ragand other weeds that are equally difficult to eliminate. Among the various herbicides on the market there are products based on Trichetone Sulcotrione, a powerful herbicide foreliminate the soft rag(Abutilon theophrasti) and other dicotyledonous weeds. There is no lack of other active ingredients with isoxaflutone, herbicide used specifically for the control of thesoft rag in corn crops. To purchase the herbicide in question, it is necessary to have a phytosanitary license.
The risks of chemical weeding
Unfortunately, chemical pesticides remain in the soil for a long time. They pollute the soles, the water tables and remain in the vegetables grown in the garden. In addition, chemical weeding is not always 100% effective. To avoid these side effects, for the weeding of the soft ragwe advise you to continue mechanically.
Mechanical and natural weeding
Like? With an early manual removal. Pulling off the plant when it is not yet well developed will avoid themultiplication. The weeding of the soft rag, in fact, must be done in spring, before the dispersion of the seeds.
The seeds must find mild temperatures to germinate and thrive. With temperatures around 24 ° C, the plant finds the apex of multiplication by seed.
Some insects reduce seed production, including:
- Heliothis virescens
- Liorhyssus hyalinus
- Niesthrea lousianica
- Althaeus folkertsi
- Helicoverpa zea
Too bad that these insects can also damage agricultural crops.
Use in the kitchen
Younger shoots can be collected and used in cooking, as well as flowers and seeds. The flowers have a fruity aroma.
The weed, in the Maldives, is known as maabulha and is part of the local food and wine tradition. The young leaves are finely chopped and mixed with Maldivian fish and grated coconut in a recipe known as mas huni.