How to improve pre-seed herbicide applications

Q: How can I improve weed control in my crops?

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On average, more than 22 million hectares of canola are grown in western Canada each spring. Flea beetles harm…

A: There is a constant need to improve overall weed control in our crops. Pre-sowing herbicides are the first application that forms the basis for this growing season.

Growers battle changes across the weed spectrum combined with the challenge of weed resistance management. Producers often ask, “What can I do differently to address these issues?” It would be great if we could push the “simple button” and have a new chemical solution, but that’s probably not sustainable.

Every time we introduce a new chemical, the pests adapt. The solution to superior weed control is a combination of doing the basics right and utilizing all of the current options that researchers and manufacturers have provided. In conclusion, I am optimistic that we will have some new herbicide options in the future, but also significant new application improvements that will drive weed control.

First the basics. Knowing the problem in each area is the first step – that’s scouting and records. Next comes plant selection, proper nutrition, crop rotation, proper seeding rates, etc. Reducing the seed bank reduces weed competition and slows resistance.

Second, when choosing a pre-seed solution, consider all the variables. Remember that this is the first spraying of the season and there will be sequential treatment in the crop. It is important to switch chemistry, consider a contact versus residual product, use multi-mode action products or herbicide layers to combat resistance. Also note that some products require moisture to activate and know the limitations of this product.

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New groups of herbicides targeting herbicide-resistant weeds are hard to discover and slow to come to market, but manufacturers are investing heavily in them. More and more often we see new combinations of current products. This offers instant solutions. We’ve seen growth in chemical groups 13, 14, and 15 lately.

Finally, application technique will have a significant impact on improving weed control. The benefits of GPS, better spray tips and section control are invaluable. The next advancement, the “green on brown” pre-sowing application, offers another weapon in the fight against weed control.

The spray system detects green growth on the ground. Thus, application of chemicals is direct to weeds and limits waste. The benefits are numerous. First, you use fewer chemicals and save money. Secondly, the environmental impact is lower and sustainability increases. As far as weed control goes, growers may be able to use more consistent (more expensive) chemicals than they normally would. The grower can also use more applications due to less product or use of more combination products.

Weed control is difficult, but advances in products and application technologies will help.

– Ernie Nycholat, PAg, CCA, is Manager of Agronomic Solutions at Nutrien Ag Solutions in northern Alberta.

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