Time to Scout for Weeds

Kurt M. Vollmer, Postdoctoral Researcher – Weed Science, University of Delaware; kvollmer@udel.edu

With most of the corn and soybeans planted, now is the time to start scouting for weeds. Doing so will prevent major headaches later in the growing season. While scouting, be sure to note the weed species present, height, life-cycle, and severity of the weed infestation. When looking at fields this year, pay attention to those areas that were drowned out last summer. The weeds in many of those spots produced seed and now have very high seed banks. So while weed pressure in the rest of the field may not be too heavy, weeds present in these spots may be at unacceptable levels.

In particular, Palmer amaranth can quickly become unmanageable if not spotted early. Many herbicide labels suggest spraying this weed when it is less than 4 inches tall, but the UD Weed Science program recommends applying postemergence herbicides before its 3 inches tall. Our research with soybean shows that the best time for this second application is no later 28 days after applying a residual herbicide. Furthermore, Palmer amaranth can quickly exceed 4 inches, and research at the University of Maryland has shown that delaying the postemergence application to 32 days or longer can result in reduced levels of control. Remember, the earlier Palmer amaranth is spotted the better. Furthermore, keep in mind there could be several days between scouting and actually getting the sprayer into the field, allowing Palmer amaranth to reach heights that prevent complete control.

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