Cheatgrass is notorious for cheating wheat growers out of yield. The often-heard farming idiom is especially relevant this year due to extended cold, wet conditions across much of the northern Plains.
Controlling cheatgrass begins with field scouting, says Seth Keas, market development specialist for Corteva Agriscience. “It’s important to know if cheatgrass is present in your field. The yield loss can be significant — often a difference of 50% or more.”
Further amplifying the need for timely control this spring is the increased potential for heavy cheatgrass pressure because of delayed herbicide applications. Keas says heavy moisture in Montana and North Dakota has put fieldwork about a month behind normal in northern Plains wheat fields.
“Cheatgrass continued to grow beneath the snow cover, affecting potential winter wheat yields. By the time we’re able to get to the cheatgrass this year, we’re also going to have more broadleaf pressure,” he says.
Treatments for cheatgrass are expected to coincide with the normal timing for broadleaf weed control. That’s where broadleaf and grass herbicide solutions will shine. The timing also aligns with other early season weeds such as Japanese brome, wild oats or yellow foxtail.
As always, the smaller the weed, the better the control. Typically, two-leaf to two-tiller is optimum timing for the best control. Spraying larger cheatgrass, while not ideal, is still likely to significantly improve the grower’s bottom line, Keas says.
For those growers who have adopted a fall herbicide spray program, Keas cautions that fall sprays will not provide residual activity in early spring when cheatgrass continues to germinate. To control cheatgrass, Keas recommends spraying GoldSky® herbicide or PerfectMatch® herbicide, especially if heavy broadleaf weed pressure is also an issue.
“If you need control of cheatgrass and have prickly lettuce and Canada thistle concerns, PerfectMatch herbicide is an excellent option. If you need rotational flexibility and control of kochia, wild buckwheat and mustard species, then GoldSky is our product of choice,” he says. “On the other hand, if you don’t have broadleaf pressure yet in your winter wheat and large cheatgrass is present, then PowerFlex [HL] is an excellent option to control larger cheatgrass with a narrower broadleaf portfolio.”
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