A Lesson on Weed Seeds and the Expansion of Waterhemp

By: Kevin Thorsness

A Lesson on Weed Seeds and the Expansion of Waterhemp

In 2013, it was difficult to find waterhemp in a wheat field, but now in 2017, it’s becoming too easy to find fields with this weed in eastern North Dakota. Waterhemp has spread across much of the country in a short span and is often resistant to glyphosate which has caused more headaches for growers.

Seeds Spreading Like Wildfire

Waterhemp seeds are small and can spread through several channels of transportation such as: water flow, animals, equipment and people. The watch-out with waterhemp is the seed size. The small size of waterhemp seed allow it to sneak into any space where only particles of dirt can reach.


Water is essential for crops but any moving water-rainfall, runoff or flash flooding can rapidly transport a seed from one field to another, even miles down the road. 


Birds cause weed movement by picking up the seed from the ground and dropping it miles away allowing the seed to germinate and grow in a new location.

Equipment and People

When waterhemp seeds sneak into the grooves of boots and tires, growers and their equipment can carry the seed from one field to any other field, without even realizing it.

Control the Uncontrollable

Despite the agility of waterhemp seeds, there are ways to control its spread:

    1. Sanitation practices are essential to slowing down the spread of weed seed. Taking time to clean off machinery and to clean off boots are two ways to help slow it down.

    2. Wheat and barley rotations also lower the incidence of waterhemp in fields. Cereals are competitive against broadleaf weeds because the crop is generally planted in narrow rows. This allows for a canopy to be established early into the season. Waterhemp and other broadleaf weeds are less likely to emerge when there is a canopy because of the lack of sun. 

    3. It’s important to always have a good stand in your wheat field; without a good stand, your crop will be less successful. Additionally, a uniform stand will reduce the emergence of weeds, like waterhemp.  Manage residue from last season by spreading it evenly across the field to allow for good stands.

    4. Herbicides can provide control. Huskie® Complete and Huskie® provide effective control of waterhemp, and waterhemp has no known resistance to either Huskie Complete or Huskie.

Just remember that even though waterhemp is a common and destructive weed, using the correct control methods will allow you to combat waterhemp and grow a healthy crop for a great yield each season.
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