Weed control in wheat can be complicated. You know weeds damage your bottom line because of decreased yield and grain quality. But the reduction to your wheat isn’t as visible during the season, so weeds might get a little less attention than their disease and insect counterparts.
Southwest Farm Press reported last year that weeds can cause as much as a 40 percent yield loss in wheat, according to David Drake, Texas AgriLife Extension agronomist. The article outlined the 6 factors that are important to effective weed control in wheat, according to Drake.
If that a seems a little high to you, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension estimates that weed competition reduces wheat yields in Nebraska by at least 10 percent each year. Nonetheless, weed control losses are variable depending on geography.
How do weeds create such a dramatic decrease in yield or affect your profitability? According to Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development:
- Green material from immature weeds might be present at harvest, meaning you might need to change from straight-combining to swathing, which increases costs.
- Elevators and millers can dock you if you have too many weed seeds in your grain. Not only does this reduce the price you receive, but you may incur additional storage fees or transportation fees to find a mill that will accept your grain.
- The No. 1 effect of weed competition on wheat is reduced wheat tillering.
Wheat Tillers and Weeds
Wheat yield is largely reliant on the emergence of tillers from the main plant. The main plant develops the largest grain head, but additional grain heads also can appear on tillers. While variety selection plays a part in tillering potential, environmental conditions are just as important.
According to the University of Kentucky Extension, early season tillers are more likely to increase yield. Pests such as weeds are considered part of the environmental condition of a field, and are most detrimental early in the season. If weeds are present, they compete with the wheat for nutrients, moisture and sunlight. If that competition exists, the conditions are not favorable to support tillering. This, in turn, means you have less grain to harvest.
Protect Wheat from Weeds
There are several ways to protect your wheat yield and quality from weed competition. These include preventive practices, such as cleaning equipment between fields to ensure you don’t transfer seeds to clean fields, and cultural weed management, such as crop rotation.
However, chemical weed managementis often key in protecting wheat from weed competition. Crop Science has a number of herbicides that provide effective control of many key weeds in wheat. There also are a number of modes of action to choose from to help you manage herbicide-resistant weeds.
For example, Huskie® Complete herbicide is available to wheat growers in Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana, Wisconsin and Wyoming. This all-in-one wheat herbicide contains a chemistry previously not available for wheat, controlling more than 50 grass and broadleaf weeds.
Crop Science provides growers with new solutions to weed management problems. The company is excited to announce the release of two new herbicides for use in wheat. The first is Varro™, which controls grass weeds and is available in Colorado, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Montana and Wyoming.
Wheat growers also have the option of a second new herbicide, Wolverine® Advanced. Wolverine Advanced controls 69 grass and broadleaf weeds in wheat, thanks to three modes of action in a single product. This includes a unique mode of action in cereals, which is responsible for controlling broadleaf weeds such as kochia, Russian thistle, prickly lettuce and wild buckwheat—including ALS- and glyphosate-resistant biotypes. Wolverine Advanced is available in Idaho, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Washington, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
With broadleaf and grass weed resistance on the rise in wheat, every step taken to prevent weed shifts – cultural or chemical – makes a difference, both in the field and at market.