Breaking Down 4 Key Herbicide Groups

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Looking up thru tasseled corn - blue sky

You know rotating herbicides is key to managing herbicide resistance. However, while rotating active ingredients is good, rotating modes of action, or herbicide groups, is better.

“While there are several different trade names and new herbicides released every year, you can essentially narrow down herbicide modes of action to about a dozen,” explains Kelly Backscheider, zonal biology leader herbicides, Corteva Agriscience. “Everyone wants simplicity these days or products that can fit multiple crops. But if we are using the same active ingredients in both corn and soybeans, then we increase the chance of resistance developing.”

Crop rotation is a great way to keep herbicide resistance at bay, but it’s not going to help if you are relying on the same active ingredients in both crops. In general, corn provides more opportunity to control resistant weeds when compared with options for soybean herbicides.

Here are some key herbicide groups to consider incorporating into your corn weed control program:

  • Group 4: Commonly referred to as synthetic auxins or growth regulators, Group 4 actives include herbicides such as 2,4-D and dicamba and typically work by mimicking auxin hormones in the plant, resulting in the disruption of plant growth. The results are often visible as twisting, cupping, curling and strapping of plant tissue.

    Several actives in this group, including clopyralid, provide none to very little residual control of weeds and will only control emerged weeds. They also are typically only effective on broadleaf species. For example, clopyralid has excellent postemergence activity on troublesome weeds, such as giant ragweed. 
  • Group 5: This group of herbicides includes atrazine, a very important active ingredient for corn. Group 5 herbicides are referred to as photosystem II inhibitors, or simply PS II inhibitors. Atrazine provides excellent residual and postemergence control of many key grass and broadleaf weed species. In addition, atrazine — when used in combination with an HPPD herbicide — enhances the control of key weed species, such as waterhemp or Palmer amaranth, when compared with HPPD inhibitors applied alone.

    It is important to note that, as with many other herbicide groups, there are instances of resistance to atrazine in some areas. Despite this, atrazine continues to be used across many corn acres in the United States. As always, it is best to use herbicides from this group alongside other modes of action.            
  • Group 15: Commonly referred to as long chain fatty acid inhibitors, herbicides in this group only provide residual activity of weeds and will not control weeds that have already emerged. However, they are typically very effective on providing residual control of small-seeded broadleaves, such as waterhemp and Palmer amaranth, as well as grasses.
  • Group 27: Also known as HPPD inhibitors or the bleacher herbicides, actives in this mode of action obstruct key enzymes essential for pigment synthesis, which results in the bleaching or whitening of leaves. They provide control of weeds that are emerged, but they also can provide residual control of weeds and activity on driver weed species, such as waterhemp and Palmer amaranth.

    “I highly recommend using a corn herbicide with an HPPD herbicide,” Backscheider says. Resicore® brand herbicides are a great option, as they contain an HPPD herbicide in addition to a Group 15 and Group 4 and contain a safener so they can be used preemergence or postemergence in corn. Kyro™ herbicide is a postemergence-only option that contains a different HPPD in addition to a Group 15 and Group 4 herbicide.

    “These are just two examples of the newest corn offerings from Corteva that fit really well in a corn herbicide program from a resistance management perspective,” Backscheider says. “The key is to use as many modes of action in corn as possible and to avoid using some of those MOAs in soybeans if you can help it.”

Finally, Backscheider recommends keeping an updated copy of the Take Action herbicide classification chart and referencing it when making weed control decisions. This chart is updated every year, so you can quickly look at the different modes of action and the active ingredients used in common premixes.

Work closely with your local retailer or Corteva Agriscience representative to create a weed control program that includes multiple modes of action and helps prevent resistance on your operation.

Kyro™ and Resicore®  are not registered for sale or use in all states. Kyro and Resicore  are not available for sale, distribution or use in Nassau and Suffolk counties in the state of New York. Contact your state pesticide regulatory agency to determine if a product is registered for sale or use in your state. Always read and follow label directions.