Southern Spotlight: Wheat and Weeds

James Banahan

James Banahan

This year’s wheat crop continues to consternate.  We’re nearing the end of our dealings with it for sure, but it poses questions and problems for us yet as we work to successfully close it out.

The issue of the moment is weeds.  You know well that in a typical year, you would top dress with a residual chemistry in March, but this March, our wheat was looking so questionable that we skipped this step anticipating the possibility of a poor crop.  We’re left now with a double whammy: a thin wheat crop and a lot of weeds.

All that marestail and pigweed pushing through the canopy is a product not only of our omission of a residual chemistry in March, but a few other factors as well.  The rain is contributing to the weed pressure also, but the thin crop is the biggest factor: more and bigger wheat plants would crowd out the weeds, but more and bigger wheat plants is not a luxury we get to enjoy this year.

So what the heck do we do about it?  That’s the question that has been coming up so often lately and the answer depends on what you want to do after your wheat comes off.

(While we’re talking about wheat coming off though, keep in mind that whatever your future plans are, they begin after your herbicide application and its subsequent harvest interval.  Roundup has a seven day harvest interval.  24D has a two week interval.  Your choice of herbicide will determine your harvest timeline and thus when you begin Part II of this saga.)

If you’re planning to summer fallow your fields or to simply return to wheat in the fall, you’ve got quite a few options for weed control since any residual will be long gone before you plant a new crop.  With either of these options, the important thing is to continue your weed control after your initial burn to keep weed pressure in check and prevent their reestablishment in your field.  Working to keep weeds at a minimum will ensure that water and nutrients remain in your soil for use by your next crop and will prevent any additions to the seed bank (which would cause you trouble next year).

If you’re planning to double crop, that’s where the wheat and weeds becomes a bit more tricky.  When double cropping, your best option for weed control now wholly depends on the crop you intend to plant next.  Your careful planning and attention to residual timelines are essential for the success of your second crop.

A feed crop is probably the simplest double crop option when it comes to weed control.  You should be able to use 24D to kill your weeds now without affecting your feed crop.  Sunflowers and soybeans are the tougher options.  Sunflowers and soybeans put 24D off the table, so a combination of Roundup and a low-residual burner like Sharpen is your best bet for weed control.  You’ll need to wait a week to plant after such an application though, which means that you’ll be planting mid-July, which is almost too late.  Almost too late is not the same as too late though: double cropping sunflowers or soybeans is certainly yet an option for us, just one that we have to carry out with much care and attention.DSC_0181

Whatever your plans, I encourage you to communicate closely with your FSA.  There is a workable solution for nearly any plan, but tight timelines, tough weeds, and chemistries with consequences requires careful planning and upfront knowledge about the effects that your decisions will have on your future plans.  We’re here to help you navigate your options and chart your best route forward, so don’t sit and stew or worry—give us a call and we’ll help you start planning to move forward with your weed control today.