Never Let Them Emerge…
It’s really hard to believe that the month of January is almost over and we could be out in the fields again within a couple of months. I’m sure many of you may agree with me that it just seems like this has been one of those years that never stops. But with the winter months still upon us, this is the best time of year to really sit down and go through a number of different items: what hybrids performed best for you last year, how/where will I position things this year, what are some of the key items that I might need to implement into the operation going forward, how will the grain market affect some planning and decisions in the next couple years, and finally, one of the keys I would like to focus on today is, what steps do I need to take to enhance my soybean weed control program?
Since this harsh winter seems to be the year of coming up with fancy, stick-in-your-mind words like Polar Vortex and Siberian Express, there are a couple key phrases I would like everyone to focus on as we plan our chemical programs for spring 2014: multiple modes of action, residual chemistry, right rates, etc. As many of us saw firsthand last spring, what was once a fear of seeing weed resistance in this area finally became reality. This problem, I fear, is going to only get worse with a hefty seed bank of weeds being laid back onto the soil after harvest and the fear of Palmer Amaranth getting closer each year. I know all of us at United Prairie have really tried to take steps to be on the front end of this by visiting Arkansas and Tennessee to see and discuss this issue with those dealing with it firsthand, or having keynote speakers like Ford Baldwin come to our meetings, which many of you attended, to bring some reality to the situation. Most importantly, we continue to be very flexible in working with many different chemical manufacturers to ensure that we have every tool available in our toolbox when it comes to fighting what could be a game-changing issue in our farming practices.
Although there are many chemistry options I could review for plans of attack, I encourage each and every one of you to sit down with your United Prairie Sales Agronomist and go through the options. I have found as the prepay season is upon us that these discussions can sometimes take quite a bit of time, and I truly feel like they should take time while every field is looked at. Glyphosate, which is still effective on many different weed species, made many of our lives very easy when it came to controlling troublesome weeds. For someone like myself, who may be considered a Roundup® baby, this class of chemistry is what I have been used to since I began in this business, and it has basically come to be a standard in almost every mix that we run through our application equipment. However, I want everyone to take a step back and remember what things were like before Roundup was introduced to soybeans. We had products that were ALS based, beans that looked a little crispy after spraying, row crop field cultivators going through the fields, and the infamous bean buggy weed hook combination. Although we had these tools in the past, it seems to me that what I described could have been used in the early 90s or maybe the spring of 2013. The tools that we had then are the same tools that we have today. The key is making sure we are using the right tool for the right job.
As we begin our planning process for chemical applications on soybeans in the spring of 2014, there are key takeaways I would ask everyone to grasp from this article. First, make sure, no matter what, we are putting a strong residual down in front of our soybeans. I wish I could explain why the half-rate thought process was ever introduced, but when you look at a half-rate you are setting yourself up for failure. A half-rate is meant to only protect you for a certain timeframe, with the intention of coming back with a second pass to clean up before canopy. I ask you this though—with the strong likelihood of a weed species being resistant on your farm, why would you not want to do everything you could to prevent emergence from ever taking place? The easiest weeds to control in a post scenario are those that are never there, and the addition of a strong rate of residual up front or a layered residual application—some right ahead of planting followed by some right after planting—helps with the chances that minimal weed pressure will come through.
The second item I would like you to take away is knowing the background of the chemistry you are using. Many times, we can get caught up in the fact that a new product comes out and it is going to be the savior to our weed problems. However, the first steps we need to ask ourselves include: what are the active ingredients in the product, what is the mode of action and site of action of the chemistry, does it have any resistance issues, etc. Without knowing these key factors, we could find ourselves using a chemical program with products that may all be named differently but have the same modes of action in every product, therefore potentially making another class of chemistry less effective over time. Multiple modes of action can really be a key to controlling these weeds. It’s like a boxer—you need to mix up your punches every now and again so your opponent doesn’t end up knowing how to block your throws. If we can hit a weed species from every different direction with multiple modes of action, the likelihood of it being able to defend itself is minimized greatly, and it falls.
The last couple of key items I would like to hit are adjuvants and the right water rates. Having spent a short stint in the adjuvant business, I really learned a lot about the importance of product placement, penetration of that product into the leaf surface, and its effectiveness. Coming off a few dry seasons, we need to consider not only the different types of chemistry we are using now and the volume in which they should be sprayed, but also what the weed species is dealing with at the time of application and what that chemistry demands we use when applying. Weeds are already tough to control in a normal growing season with ample rainfall and good plant growth. Adding a level of drought to the scenario makes those plants much like us—they do everything they can to shut down and conserve moisture. Spraying the right rates of water—15-20 GPA+ —can be a huge influence to ensuring thorough coverage which, in many cases, the contact-killing chemistries we are spraying more of require (Flexstar®, Cobra®, Liberty®). Also, the addition of a proper adjuvant can make that chemistry flow into the plant much easier and effectively kill it. Many times, adjuvants are overlooked but are a very cheap investment that can be a real key in a chemical program to help assist that chemistry. These days, to ensure we keep the current effective chemistries working long term, we need to help them out as much as we can.
To conclude, I know I have only touched the tip of the iceberg on some key points as weed control continues to stay challenging. Again, I encourage you to contact your United Prairie Sales Agronomist if you haven’t already, sit down to discuss the options available today, and develop a plan that will be effective on your farm. Thank you for your time in reading this article. Have a safe rest of the winter and try to keep those furnaces turned down. TRUST ME, you don’t want to pay the current propane price!! Thanks again.