Midwest agricultural retailers are beginning to more widely use the “Flag the Technology” method to reduce errors in herbicide applications and warn of needing to limit chemical drift. This is a simple, inexpensive way to reduce errors in herbicide applications to crops not resistant to certain herbicides.

Kevin Bradley, University of Missouri Extension weed management specialist, supports the “Flag the Technology” program that had its beginning in Arkansas by the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.

The idea is simple: Color-coded bicycle flags or similar markers placed at field entrances or other conspicuous locations to indicate the use of different herbicide technologies on herbicide-resistant crops.

The system can make the difference between a healthy crop and a damaged or dead one, Bradley said. It is especially useful for farmers to request a specific herbicide be used in each of their fields by placing a flag or to recognize what the custom applicator applied in a field. Everyone can see the different herbicides used or to be used in all the fields in a neighborhood.

The program can be quite helpful for custom applicators. “When they pull into a field to make a herbicide application, the flags help to assure them that they have the right chemical in their tank to match the traits in that field,” Bradley said. “Also, they might be able to look at fields across the road, and if there are different colored flags in nearby fields, then applicators may think twice before spraying in windy conditions.”

For consistency across the Midwest, the same color flags are being suggested to signify specific herbicides or modes of action. Red flags signify conventional crop varieties with no herbicide technology traits while white represents Roundup Ready technology crops that are tolerant to glyphosate. Bright green indicates LibertyLink technology with crops tolerant to glufosinate. Bright yellow is the color for Clearfield technology, which indicates crops tolerant to imazethapyr (Newpath) and imazamox (Beyond). Multiple flags and colors represent stacked technology crops.

Preferred flags are 12 inch-by-18 inch triangles (a little larger than the typical bicycle or ATV safety flag) mounted on 6-foot fiberglass poles.

Bradley said the flag method will likely gain more significance in two to three years, when crops with new herbicide-resistance traits enter the marketplace. Farmers and agricultural retailers who make herbicide applications to large acreages, deal with multiple employees and apply multiple products will find the program of great value, he said.

A brochure about the Flag the Technology program is available at www.aragriculture.org/pesticides. A two-minute video overview from the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture is available at youtu.be/ChNGbU5TyOY.