The seed is in the ground and the crop is starting to emerge, but along with it weeds that cause you headaches every year.
Herbicide expert and farmer Brett Jans says staying on top of weeds in the crop goes beyond the chemicals, and it should be reflected in any plan you have for your crop.
Having a strong plan for weed management will go a long way to helping your crop’s yield and quality come harvest time, which will only assist your grain marketing plan.
Jans, who farms with his family near New Norway in Central Alberta, says a strong crop rotation can help cut down insect and disease pressures in your crop, something that is echoed by Kelly Bennett, Category Leader for Herbicide in Western Canada for Corteva Agriscience.
After learning a great deal about the advantages of four-year crop rotations during his post-secondary studies, Jans convinced his family to move from a three-year rotation to a four-year and it has paid off.
“The first four-year cycle, a few benefits started to show up. We noticed that in general our protein and our wheat was quite good,” Jans says.
He adds that, given it’s on pea or faba bean stubble, they liked what the root structure of the faba beans do for the soil.
The issue also helped with the moisture situation.
“Seems like they’re really doing a lot of benefit for the soil in a wet year.”
He says in a dry year, there might be some questions about whether they have a little bit less moisture in the soil after faba beans compared to peas than in their malt barley since they started growing malt barley on canola stubble versus malt barley on wheat stubble.
Jans says it’s helped clean up a lot of issues they had before the four-year rotation.
“The amount of volunteer wheat in there was pretty much non-existent.”
He adds the malt barley, they actually ended up with a lot cleaner sample, which was more pure.
They are now into their eighth year of the four-year rotation, Flea beetles are not an issue and the same can be said about blackleg in the canola, and the early leaf diseases in cereals.
Spraying may seem like the Indy 500, but you need to remember to slow down
When it comes to the application of chemicals, there are a few things that to remember.
It’s always a race against time to get the field sprayed before the weather changes; however, Bennett believes farmers need to remember faster is not better.
Chemicals need to be applied at the recommended speed and rate. He says the refill downtime is you where you should be saving time.
“It’s kind of like a pit crew, you know, with an Indy race car. When they pull in, they’ve got to be in and out of there; out of that pit in a few seconds so you can set up efficiently, so when you stop to refill, you can do that quickly,” Bennett said, adding, “that’s really going to help you out and able to go at a reasonable speed when you’re spraying.”
Bennett says part of speeding up that ‘pit time’ comes from making it easy to mix the chemicals, so farmers should keep that in mind when selecting weed management products and having a good set-up.
How much water do I have to haul?
It’s a common question you probably ask yourself even before you hook on to the sprayer.
Producers are always curious to know how much water they will need as each trip to fill the water tank costs time and fuel.
Bennett says for spring-time application, it’s effective at a range of water volumes, five to 10 gallons per acre.
“There’s always the efficiency during spray time that is really important, so if they can go at lower water volumes, that helps save a lot of time in hauling water.”
However, he cautions to watch for the development of a crop canopy.
“If your crop is a little more advanced, you’ve got more shading, more coverage; then you want to go with a bit higher water volume, so you make sure you get good coverage on the wheat and can penetrate the canopy.”
With seeding done for this year, keep notes about the start your crop gets off to, so you can use them as a reference for next year .
Bennett says it is vital that the crop emerges quickly and gets off to a good start otherwise the weeds will take over.
“A significant part of weed control is actually crop competition, so if you’ve got a crop that you maybe haven’t used seed treatment on, and it’s a cooler spring, it’s not going to advance as quickly,” Bennett said.
He adds that it is particularly true if the seedlings aren’t as robust as they should be due to cooler weather or weren’t treated before going in the ground.
“If the weeds get ahead of that crop, then they’re harder to control, and they’re also causing yield loss even at that early stage.”
If you aren’t seeing the start you would like, make note of it, to adjust next year. The more you know about your past weed issues, the easier it will be to make adjustments.
Bennett says this information will help you assess your weed issues even before the seed goes into the ground.
“Using a good pre-seed herbicide helps eliminate that early weed competition. It allows your weeds to when they regrow in the crop, they’re more even, and easier to control.”
He adds producers should be thinking about next year’s weed control after harvest wraps up.
“Coming out of your previous crop like a canola crop and then heading into your wheat or barley crop, make sure that you’re taking care of your weeds in the fall by doing some tillage or service tillage.”
Bennett says a fall herbicide application can also help, adding either or will support cut down on weed populations in the spring.
There’s a few things you should keep in mind with your weed management strategy:
1. Have a plan
2. Implement a strong crop rotation
3. Keep notes about the weeds you deal with in each field, especially when the crop is first emerging. – The more you know about your weed issues the easier it will be to deal with them the following year.
4. When applying chemical saving time is not about going faster in the field. It’s about minimizing your refill downtime.
5. Be aware of how developed the crop is. The older the crop, the more water that may be needed.
6. Fall tillage or herbicide application may be needed depending on what crops are being planted.