Burn Down: Start Fresh

Andrea Harms

Andrea Harms

The UFC geography of Northern Kansas and Southern Nebraska enjoyed some of the best wheat yields in a few years. It was not uncommon to hear yields well above 60 bushels, and some were achieving yields higher than 80 bushels.

Every year, growers understand that burn down in these wheat stubble acres is an important tool for protecting soil moisture and helping to reduce the pressure of tough-to-control weeds. Starting clean is a gold standard, and yet keeping future weed pressure at bay has become critical as we face more challenges with controlling some menacing weed species.

The threat of wheat streak mosaic and the Russian wheat aphid has increased emphasis on controlling volunteer winter wheat, downy brome, and jointed goatgrass prior to winter wheat seeding. These plants must be dead for at least 14 days prior to winter wheat emergence to ensure death of the wheat curl mite. The wheat curl mite is the vector for wheat streak mosaic virus. The main source of wheat curl mite and aphid infestation is volunteer winter wheat found in adjacent winter wheat stubble fields. These insects can be controlled by killing the volunteer wheat and other hosts by cultivating the fallow ground or using herbicides prior to planting winter wheat.

Header1Late summer weather is typically hot and dry, and at a time when a producer could not buy a rain, it is essential to kill weeds in wheat stubble earlier and not later. Also, weeds may harden off in tough conditions, making it harder to get a good kill. Attention to detail on spray applications and herbicide selection makes all the difference in successfully controlling weed pests. Be sure to run 15-20 gallons per acre of water, add adjuvants that can help herbicides gain good coverage on weed leaves, and penetrate the clumps of weeds that may grow in the field. Consult with your UFC FSA to select herbicides, and remember to check the label for planting restrictions.

The take away is controlling weeds in wheat stubble saves moisture and conserves fertility in the soil,  the application of the correct herbicide and adjuvant can help control volunteer wheat that can spread disease and host insects that vector disease and it also allows us time to capture weeds like marestail before it has chance to become next season’s menace.