As winter wheat growers look ahead to spring herbicide applications, it is important to consider winter weather effects when thinking about weed management practices.

Winter weather conditions this season brought minimal precipitation through January. The result: large patches of bare ground and fields that face extensive weed emergence.

In winter wheat, snow-covered ground provides insulation that prevents winter kill due to cold temperatures and windburn. The lack of snow coverage provided an opportunity for weed seed movement and reduced winter kill protection.

“Weed seed travels onto bare, damaged winter wheat areas creating an opportunity for weeds to get off to a good start,” says Abe Smith, market development specialist, Dow AgroSciences. “This is a challenge for winter wheat growers as they plan for spring weed control.”

Winter wheat growers can benefit from an aggressive plan to combat yield loss due to weed competition.

For spring control of weeds such as downy brome, apply herbicides when winter wheat is between the three-leaf and jointing stage. Make sure downy brome has emerged and that overwintering downy brome is actively growing.

“It is important for growers to do an honest evaluation of their weed control program,” Smith says. “Are you seeing weeds carryover year after year? If so, what has contributed to it? Are you evaluating spray tactics, getting good coverage, applying the recommended surfactants, and following label recommendations?”

If weed species are becoming harder to control it may be time to reevaluate current weed control practices to protect the long-term sustainability of herbicide options. Rotating modes of action is vital to prevent herbicide resistance.

“I recommend PowerFlex HL herbicide for spring applications in winter wheat. In terms of timing, it's one of the better products out there,” Smith says. It is a good product for cheatgrass control and downy brome suppression.  

Weeds such as kochia, Russian thistle, wild buckwheat, mustard species and perennial weeds can be a major problem, too. “If not controlled, broadleaf weeds can steal moisture and nutrients quickly, and they tend to expand until they don’t have space,” Smith said. Take a broad look at weed population shifts and weed control failures for potential herbicide resistance. The Dow AgroSciences herbicide for this category of weeds is WideMatch.

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