Spring herbicide applications on winter wheat
Dandelion weed. The date on the calendar may indicate that we are still in the winter season, but the weather outside would indicate otherwise. The temperatures of the past winter have been mild especially throughout late February. The mild winter and early spring like conditions are not only favorable for a good wheat crop, but also for winter annual weeds. Winter annual weeds that occur in wheat fields over the winter will also be taking full advantage of the spring like conditions to get a jump-start to the season. Many wheat producers, especially in the southern regions of Indiana will soon be or already are topdressing need to also be scouting for weeds and determining if a herbicide application is necessary on any existing winter annual weeds. The following information will outline winter annual weeds for look out for, weed scouting tips, crop stage restrictions, and herbicide recommendations.
Some common broadleaf weeds to scout for in your winter wheat are dandelion, purple deadnettle, henbit, chickweed, Canada thistle, and wild garlic. These winter annual species that emerge in the fall can remain relatively inconspicuous though the winter and become competitive and troublesome during the spring if not controlled early in the spring. Summer annual weeds such as ragweed will be of less concern in the early spring and will be outcompeted by the wheat crop if managed properly, especially in the favorable conditions currently being experienced. Grass weeds to be aware of and scouting for are: annual bluegrass, annual ryegrass, cheat, and downy brome.
Determining the severity of weed infestations in your wheat fields is key in determining the necessity of a herbicide application. As with all agronomic crops, you should scout your entire field to determine what weed management practices need to be implemented and determine any areas of severe weed infestations. Wheat fields that contain uniform infestations of at least one broadleaf weed and/or three grass weeds per square foot should be taken into consideration for a herbicide application to avoid yield loss and harvest interference problems. Some fields that have less uniform infestations, but rather pockets of severe infestation should be managed to reduce weed seed production and future infestations.
click image to zoomFigure 1. Feeke's scale of winter wheat stages and herbicide application timings. When determining your herbicide program for spring applications, the stage of the wheat crop should be considered. The majority of wheat herbicides are labeled for application at certain wheat growth stages and some commonly used herbicides have very short windows in which they can be applied. The popular broadleaf weed herbicides 2,4-d and MCPA are efficient and economical, but can only be applied for a short period of time between tillering and prior to jointing. This is a short window that occurs early in the spring and may occur even earlier this year if current weather conditions hold into the spring. Wheat growth stages and herbicide timing restriction are outlined in Figure 1.