Tech Tuesday

Maximize Herbicide Tools in Fight Against Tough Weeds

The days of 'cutting the rate' may be over if you plan on having effective weed control.

As you make plans for 2013 - and eventually we will have to move forward. Measuring the performance of different tactics on your farm will be a challenge. Drought can mess up some of the data, so you have to take that into consideration. However, there are some basics you can engage today that will help you maximize the technology you have available.

I'm attending a conference of ag media pros this week, and during a talk with a major crop protection company our conversation turned to some frustration over the fight to stop herbicide resistant weeds. I've been covering this issue for years now - and it's well beyond a lesson in bad-mouthing a single technology. We're all doing a good job of mucking it up if we don't follow a few simple rules, and some are not easy to push.

Years ago, university weed scientists would talk about ways to pull back on herbicide rates in an effort to help you keep costs under control, while keeping weeds dead. The rise of resistance to a number of active ingredients is changing that conversation because use of a full-rate of a herbicide that gets the target weeds helps prevent resistance.

It's a tough concept to get your head around, since you're trying to balance your seed, fertilizer and herbicide investment for the highest returns - which usually means cutting costs somewhere. However, there's a saying in business - you can't save your way to profitability. And when it comes to weed resistance that's a big deal.

In the next year, there will be some new products on the market that will help tackle some tough weeds that stand up to a range of other active ingredients. Cutting rates, or waiting on your application timing won't be the best tactics for killing the weeds, or protecting the new tech from creating resistance in the field.

To beat weed resistance (and frankly you should act like you have resistance to keep it out of your fields) you need to push diversity of weed measures, cut the weed seed population in your fields, and use full rates of the active ingredients you use in a timely fashion. Smaller weeds are always easier to kill than big weeds.

It sounds simple, but if it was more folks would be taking up the practice. Right now we're all reeling from drought, but as you take a deep breath, regroup and push ahead. Rethink your weed control program to be more aggressive with varied modes of action, full rates and with the aim of keeping resistance from appearing in your fields.

The video I've added to this blog is Stephen Powles, an Australian weed expert, who was the first to discover glyphosate resistance in that country. He talks about the tactics and strategies for keeping weed resistance under control. Check it out.

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