Broadleaf control in wheat

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Below is information from Dallas Peterson, Weed Management Specialist with K-State Research and Extension from a recent Agronomy E-Update.

There are several herbicide options for controlling winter annual broadleaf weeds in wheat. Generally, fall applications will provide the best control of winter annual weeds with any herbicide, as long as the weeds have emerged.

The majority of winter annual weeds usually will emerge in the fall, although you can still have some emergence in the spring, especially if precipitation after planting is limited in the fall. However, winter annual weeds that emerge in the spring often are not very competitive with the crop, at least in years when there is a decent crop.

Some herbicides can work well even when applied during the dormant part of the season, while others perform best if the crop and weeds are actively growing. The key difference relates to the degree of soil activity provided by the herbicide.

Herbicides that have good residual activity, such as sulfonylurea herbicides, can generally be applied in January and February when plants aren’t actively growing and still provide good weed control, assuming you have proper conditions for the application.

Most other herbicides, which depend more on foliar uptake, will not work nearly as well during the mid-winter months, when the wheat and weeds aren’t actively growing, as compared to a fall or early spring application.

Spring herbicide applications can be effective for winter annual broadleaf weed control as well, but timing and weather conditions are critical to achieve good control. Spring applications generally are most effective on winter annual broadleaf weeds soon after green-up when weeds are still in the rosette stage of growth, and during periods of mild weather. Once weeds begin to bolt and wheat starts to develop more canopy, herbicide performance often decreases dramatically.

Spring-germinating summer annual weeds often are not a serious problem for a good healthy stand of wheat coming out of the winter. However, if wheat stands are thin and the wheat is very late developing, early-germinating summer annual weeds such as kochia, Russian thistle, and wild buckwheat may be a problem, especially at harvest time.

Many of these weeds may be controlled by residual herbicides applied earlier in the season. If not, post emergence treatments should be applied soon after weed emergence and before the wheat gets too large in order to get good spray coverage and achieve the best results.

Another important consideration with herbicide application timing is crop tolerance at different application timings. For example, 2,4-D should not be applied in the fall or until wheat is full tillered in the spring. On the other hand, any herbicide containing dicamba can be applied after wheat has two leaves, but should not be applied once the wheat gets close to jointing in the spring.


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