With the wide range of weather conditions affecting farmers throughout the country - from unseasonably wet weather in the Mid-South and Midwest to unusually dry conditions elsewhere - this spring's environment caused significant weed control challenges for farmers.

Whether in a challenging year like 2013 or an "ideal" season, implementing diversified weed management practices (DWMPs) is critical to achieving good weed control and, as a result, higher yields. Experts - including weed scientists, university extension agents, and agronomists - have been preaching the importance of multiple modes of herbicide action for years.

Farmers have heard the message - Monsanto research shows, since 2010, the percentage of soybean acres treated with residual herbicides grew from 33% to 46% in 2012.

The importance of proactive control in cotton, corn and soybeans cannot be overlooked. Grower education and DWMPs are a step in the right direction for effective weed control.

Proactive Weed Control

The Roundup Ready PLUS Weed Management Solutions platform contains recommendations for a proactive weed control plan. Excellent weed control begins before planting, using crop rotation and cover crops, effective multiple modes of action herbicides and tillage where appropriate. It continues through the season with overlapping residual herbicides and post-emergence herbicides using multiple modes-of-action.

Crop rotation provides farmers the opportunity to change cultural practices, like planting dates and fertility programs, which help reduce certain tough-to-control weeds from becoming established.

Different tillage, herbicide modes of action and breaking insect and disease cycles all play a role in protecting a crop during a growing season. Ideally, farmers should include two or more crops in a rotation, rotating a different crop each growing season.

Roundup Ready PLUS began with a small program called Cotton Performance PLUS in 2008. Cotton Performance PLUS was a revolutionary weed control platform where Monsanto provided cotton farmers incentives to use competitor products in their weed management program.

Cotton Performance PLUS expanded in 2009 and 2010, offering more herbicide options each year. In the 2011 growing season Roundup Ready PLUS was launched and provided recommendations, incentives and basic weed management guidance in cotton, soybeans and corn.

"At Monsanto, we've worked with academics across the country to develop herbicide recommendations that give farmers the best opportunity for weed control success in any given season," said Rick Cole, Ph.D., weed management technical lead at Monsanto Company. "The third party recommendations are critical for grower engagement, and that has helped expand Roundup Ready PLUS year after year."

Roundup Ready PLUS Weed Management Solutions is a resource for staying informed about weed management by combining the experience and expertise of diverse groups of weed scientists, including academics, agronomists and industry partners.

The Roundup Ready PLUS platform can help farmers:

• Develop a proactive and economical approach to controlling tough-to-manage and glyphosate-resistant weeds

• Review updated information on best management practices for fields

• Determine the opportunity to earn cash-back incentives for soybean, cotton or corn acres when they use Roundup brand agricultural herbicides with Roundup Ready PLUS platform endorsed products

The Roundup Ready PLUS platform recommends using a broad spectrum soil active residual herbicide in your soybeans, cotton and corn crop rotations. Weeds present at crop canopy compete with your crop and could reduce yield.

Being aggressive with a weed control program during the growing season can prevent uncontrolled weeds from going to seed and helps to protect against a much larger weed seedbank in the next growing season. By preventing weeds during the season, farmers can prevent negative impacts at harvest, including weeds being spread by harvesting equipment and negative impacts to grain quality and trash levels.

"Effective weed management is about more than choosing the right herbicide," added Cole. "Effective weed management is about developing a long-term plan that consistently puts a priority on weed control and protecting yield. Farmers who do this from seed selection through harvest are generally rewarded with cleaner fields and higher yields."

A Change in Weed Control is Coming

The time of using a single herbicide to manage weeds is over. It's going to take more time, additional herbicides and effort to manage weeds.

Monsanto is working on developing dicamba and glyphosate stacked weed management technologies in Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans and Bollgard II XtendFlex cotton, both of which are pending regulatory approvals. Bollgard II Xtendflex cotton will also contain tolerance to the herbicide glufosinate, providing farmers in the heart of resistant palmer amaranth and difficult-to-manage weed territory another tool in the weed management toolbox.

These systems are expected to extend pre-plant application and at-planting flexibility for farmers, as well as the window of application for postemergence treatments. In addition to postemergence applications, dicamba has the potential to offer up to 14 days residual activity on small-seeded broadleaf weeds, including waterhemp, lambsquarters and Palmer pigweed depending on rain fall and soil type.

Dicamba should always be used in combination with a residual herbicide such as Warrant Herbicide, Valor or Authority brands which can extend the residual activity. Multiple modes of action are key to preventing the buildup of weed seed banks in fields.