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Weed Warriors: The Upper Hand After the Drought

January 26, 2013
By: Rhonda Brooks, Farm Journal Seeds & Production Editor
Waterhemp often emerges multiple times in the field during a single growing season, requiring more than a one-time herbicide application to control it.  

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This past season, many farmers got an unwanted education in what can go wrong with weed control when a massive drought occurs. In the words of University of Missouri Extension weed scientist Kevin Bradley: "Just about everything."

Yet failure is often a good teacher—if you allow it to be. The lessons you learned in 2012 should be top of mind as you prepare for 2013 and what could well be another dry year, if current weather projections become a reality.

For starters, you probably will need to step up your weed management practices.

"Weed control is going to be more challenging, not simpler, in the years ahead," contends Aaron Hager, University of Illinois Extension weed scientist.

Hager and other weed scientists encourage you to leverage what you probably already know to eliminate weeds and capture more yield.

Their key points include:

Weed Warrior
  • Develop a systematic approach to weed control.
  • Don’t just control weeds; start clean to prevent them from getting established.
  • Use a number of different active ingredients, including some with residual.
  • Rotate crops if it makes sense, but be mindful of potential herbicide carryover from this past season.
  • Apply full labeled rates.
  • While you’re at it, read product labels to make sure you get the weeds you need to control in the time frame required.
  • Stay on top of any resistant weed problems; chop them by hand if need be, so they can’t go to seed.

While these practices don’t guarantee success, they will help you get a strong start this spring, and that will put you in position for a winning season in the battle against weeds.

How to implement a multistep weed control strategy this growing season

Corn and soybeans don’t care for prolonged hot weather, but some weeds sure do. Palmer amaranth, waterhemp and other heat-loving weeds thrived this past summer as temperatures soared across much of the country.

Many farmers’ best efforts failed to keep weeds at bay, notes Kevin Bradley, University of Missouri Extension weed scientist.

"I couldn’t begin to add up all the things that went wrong with our weedcontrol efforts last year," Bradley says.

Unusually warm spring temperatures in 2012 encouraged weeds in the state to emerge a good month to five weeks ahead of schedule. Because of their advanced growth, many weed populations were able to withstand farmers’ burndown herbicides. Preemergence products with residual control didn’t fare much better.

"They didn’t work well here last year because we didn’t have enough rain to activate them," Bradley says.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - February 2013



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