Timing of cheatgrass herbicides on wheat

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Producers who want to treat their fields of continuous wheat with a cheatgrass herbicide have to decide when to apply it. Should they spend the money and apply it this fall or wait until spring to see if the wheat is going to yield enough to pay for it? Each of the most commonly used cheatgrass herbicides – PowerFlex, Olympus, Olympus Flex, and Maverick – is most effective on cheatgrass when applied in the fall, especially for control of downy brome. They can also be effective when applied in winter if the cheat is actively growing, or in the early spring, but control is most consistent when applied in the fall. These products should be applied when the cheatgrass is small and actively growing, and when the wheat has at least three leaves but prior to jointing.

Another benefit of fall application compared to spring application is that a fall application helps minimize rotational restrictions because of the extra time between application and planting the next crop. Fall application may even open the door for double-cropping or planting failed acres to soybeans in the spring following PowerFlex or Olympus Flex. 

The cheatgrass species present is a very important factor in the level of control to expect. All the listed herbicides can provide very good control of true cheat and Japanese brome (unless the weed population has developed resistance to the ALS class of herbicides), but are less effective on downy brome. ALS-resistant cheat and Japanese brome were first documented in Kansas in 2007. ALS-resistant cheatgrass first appeared in fields with a long history of Olympus and Maverick use. These populations were cross-resistant to all of the cheatgrass herbicides used in wheat. Since that time, other fields with ALS-resistant cheatgrass have also been confirmed.   

None of the herbicides previously discussed controls feral rye. To suppress feral rye in wheat, producers would need to have planted a Clearfield wheat variety and use Beyond herbicide. Beyond can also provide control of cheat, Japanese brome, downy brome, and Italian ryegrass. Like the other herbicides, fall applications of Beyond generally are more effective for weed control than spring treatments. 

Producers need to realize that rye and ryegrass are not the same plant. Feral rye and Italian ryegrass are two different grassy weeds. PowerFlex and Olympus Flex can give very good ryegrass control, but will not control rye. It is important that producers make that distinction when they hear or read advertisements about ryegrass control with PowerFlex or Olympus Flex.


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