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Burcucumber can be troublesome because of its aggressive growth and prolonged seedling emergence in corn and soybean fields. In fact, if left to grow all season, mature burcucumber vines can grow up to 20 feet long and span over six rows of corn. The weight of the vines can result in corn lodging, which not only reduces yield but also presents substantial challenges during harvest.1

  • Common names: Burcucumber, wild pickle, star cucumber, nimble kate
  • Scientific name:Sicyos angulatus
  • Cotyledons: Large and oval-shaped
  • Leaf shape: Heart-shaped, round or pentagon-shaped
  • Stems: Sticky, hairy and ridged
  • Vines: Long tendrils with spiny seed clusters with burlike seeds
  • Grass or broadleaf: Summer annual broadleaf

Fast Facts on Burcucumber:    

  • When burcucumber grows in direct competition with soybeans, it can reduce yield up to 48%.2
  • The weed is typically found in low-lying areas near creeks and rivers, but it also can be found on upland areas.
  • Burcucumber emerges from early May through mid-August. Although plants emerging after mid-July often do not produce viable seed, those that emerge in June can produce up to 42,000 seeds per plant.3
    • These seed clusters remain green and fleshy through mid-September. After drying, the clusters shatter, depositing seeds on the ground.3
    • A hard seed coat prolongs seed dormancy, which means that fields infested with burcucumber will have a lasting seed reservoir in the soil and the potential for a recurring burcucumber problem in future years.3
    • Seeds can germinate and emerge from soil depths up to 6 inches.3
  • Burcucumber has separate male and female flowers (monoecious) that are white to pale yellow in color.4 Burcucumber begins to flower in August and continues to produce flowers until a winter frost.3 The fruit on the plants is typically produced in clusters of three to 20 and resemble cucumbers covered with bristles.

Control Tips:

An integrated approach to burcucumber management can protect corn and soybean yield and prevent future field infestations. These management practices can help: 

  • Implement preventive measures to mitigate the spread of burcucumber seed from field to field.
    • Diligently scout fields for signs of burcucumber. If spotted, isolate the small infestation before it becomes a large problem. Most infestations start as small patches near the edge of the field and, without management, can spread to the entire field within a few years.2
    • Thoroughly clean all tillage and harvesting equipment before removing it from an infested field. Burcucumber vines with seeds can easily wrap around disks, shanks and harvest reels, making the transfer of seed from one field to another more likely.
    • Consider harvesting burcucumber-infested fields for silage to prevent viable seed production late into the growing season.
  • Encourage aggressive crop growth through cultural practices to help manage burcucumber weeds. Planting high-yielding varieties and including rotational crops, such as alfalfa or small grains, can limit early season competition from burcucumber.  
  • Utilize mechanical controls, like no-till fields, to better control burcucumber infestations. Research suggests that burcucumber may be better controlled in no-till fields because the seed remains near the soil surface. This enables germination to occur over a shorter period and reduces the number of times seeds can germinate. This also improves herbicide effectiveness and performance.3
  • Implement a weed management program that includes residual herbicides and timely applications. Because burcucumber can emerge throughout the growing season, it is difficult to manage with herbicides that lack residual activity. For effective chemical control, use a program approach to weed control with multiple modes of action. Pre- and postemergence herbicides that include effective foliar and residual activity will help ensure season-long control.3

Corteva Agriscience provides a variety of flexible corn and soybean solutions, so you can work with customers to create a strong herbicide program tailored to local weed pressure. Consult your local Corteva representative or visit Corteva.us to learn more. 

Additional Information:

More information can be found in these weed science resources:

1Jha, P. 2022. Managing Burcucumber in Corn and Soybean.

2Bradley, K. 2014. Weed of the month: Burcucumber (Sicyous angulatus), An Agronomic Pest on the Increase. https://ipm.missouri.edu/cropPest/2014/9/Burcucumber-An-Agronomic-Pest-on-the-Increase/

3Messersmith, D., D. Lingenfelter, and W. S. Curran. 2021. Managing Burcucumber in Agronomic Crops.

4Nice, G., B. Johnson, and T. Bauman. 2005. Burcucumber Control.