Southern Spotlight: Rescue Treatments

James Banahan

James Banahan

By now, about 60% of our soybean crop has been planted.  Hopefully planting went well for you—you took your time, followed your plan, and were able to get into your fields during optimum soil conditions (the weather has made this last one hard for many of us this year).  And hopefully you’ve got your pre-emergent on already because it’s shaping up to be, potentially, a very weedy summer.

If you read that and any of the following thoughts crossed your mind—a) uh oh, b) pre-emergent?, or c) ha, this joker is trying to talk to me about a pre—then please read on, because this article is especially for you.

Growers without a pre on already are a bit behind the eight ball at this point.  Odds are it was the cost of the pre that deterred you, since a good soybean pre costs about $30 per acre applied.  That’s the equivalent of two and a half bushels at current prices.

This is no fun to think about, but context is very important in determining the true cost and value of a good pre in our part of the world.  The context here is the detriment that weeds can inflict on your crop and yield in some cases within a matter of days.  For example, unchecked water hemp (likely a weed those of you without a pre on will be dealing with) can cost you $30 per acre (yes, that’s the same price as a good pre) in a matter of only three days.

How is a weed so costly to your operation?  Basically, weeds provide general competition to your plants and gobble up water and nutrients.  That loss can easily make for a two bushel yield loss in less than half a week’s time.weedy field

So what’s a person to do with no pre on at this point in the season?  First, make yourself a note.  Write, “hey, you need a pre”, and put it somewhere you’ll see it next April.  Let this season be a learning experience for you.  Second, don’t lose hope.  Fortunately, there is yet time for a rescue treatment and your quick action with one can reduce the losses you are likely facing.

If you don’t have any experience with a rescue treatment yet, you’ll learn quickly why a pre is superior, but you’ll also be thankful that they exist.  Rescue treatments are pretty expensive—more than $30 per acre in most cases.  And they use some harsh chemistries, like PPOs, which are basically burners.  They’ll burn your weeds, but they’ll also burn your beans.  Your beans will grow through it in about ten days.  Those ten days are a good time to take a vacation because more than a few growers have called us to report that we killed their beans.  We didn’t, of course, but that’s the appearance for awhile.  It’s not a pretty sight.  In the end though, burners work well on a few select weeds, including button weeds and the awful water hemp (Cobra is good for water hemp, Cadet for button weeds).

In addition to their expense and drama, rescue treatments don’t offer as complete weed control as pre’s do.  For $25 per acre for a rescue treatment, you can hope for 80% control.  Comparably, a pre offers at least 80% control for a similar cost.  Applying a pre does take some additional forethought on your part, but the benefits of that forethought to your operation and bottom line are numerous.

We’re on the very edge of rescue treatment time, so if you’re among those without a pre on, the time is upon you to decide your next step.  Perhaps in a few years’ time we’ll find ourselves with some additional options for weed control, but for now—and, honestly, probably in the future still–prevention is the best policy.  It’s also the policy most kind to your wallet as well as your plants.