Weather wet or dry, spray annual weeds early

Something went wrong. Please try again later...
One black cow

Will this be a wet or dry year in your area? Hedge your bets. Spray annual weeds early for maximum benefit.

The sooner you remove serious weed competition, the better your grass responds. That’s true almost anytime, but it’s especially true when weather turns dry after you spray.

“We see it in trials, we see it in experience,” says Jodie Crose, Ph.D., an Oklahoma-based field scientist with Corteva Agriscience.

The most famous example may be a two-year demonstration in Brazos County, Texas, by David Bade, Ph.D., and Paul Baumann, Ph.D. Bade was an Extension forage specialist and Baumann an Extension weed specialist with what’s now known as Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. Both specialists are retired today.

The pair compared early and late-season herbicide applications with shredding and no weed treatment in fertilized and unfertilized coastal bermudagrass pasture. (See table.) Prior to the test, the pasture had not been fertilized or treated for weeds in at least five years.

The demonstration ran over two very different weather years. In the first year, a summer drought reduced all forage responses. The next year, above-normal rainfall boosted all responses.

In both years, the specialists applied the early herbicide treatments in early May to weeds 3 to 6 inches tall. The late applications they sprayed in mid-June on weeds 8 to 12 inches tall. For the shredding plots, they shredded at the same time as the late herbicide treatment.

The specialists used five herbicides at label-recommended rates in the study. Each herbicide provided good control of the weeds on the respective product labels. Yields in the table are an average of the herbicides.

Fertilized plots received two applications of fertilizer, according to soil test: 350 pounds of 19-19-19 in mid-May and 350 pounds of 15-5-10 in mid-July.

Crose says there’s a lot to learn from the demonstration:

  • On annual weeds, early spraying consistently controlled the most weeds and yielded the most grass. Wet or dry. Fertilized or not.
  • Herbicides, especially used early, shifted pasture composition from mostly weeds to mostly grass. “That helps with pasture utilization,” Crose says. “Cattle aren’t avoiding some areas because of weeds.”
  • Without weed control, fertilizer benefited weeds more than grasses. Grasses did not outcompete weeds. Total production increased, but yield remained mostly weeds.
  • Weed spraying increased grass for the least cost. Compared with untreated, early spraying more than tripled grass production in all cases.
  • Fertilizer, however, changed the forage composition from predominately native brownseed paspalum to higher-yielding coastal bermudagrass. Fertilizer with herbicide improved both forage yield and forage quality.
  • In wet years, shredding may be better than no weed control, but it’s not cheaper. “Shredding once costs about the same or more than a single herbicide application,” Crose says. “If you rely on shredding, you’ll probably need to repeat it in the same season to stay ahead of weeds.”
Ranchers can apply DuraCor® herbicide at even less expense if they blend it in liquid fertilizer or impregnate it on dry fertilizer, Crose says. “It saves an application cost,” she says.
  Dry Matter in Pounds/Acre
Dry Year
Wet Year
With Fertilizer Grass lb. Weed lb. Grass lb. Weed lb.
Early herbicide and fertilizer 2,142 209 8,323 0
Late herbicide and fertilizer 881 333 7,610 1,494
Shredding and fertilizer 577 1,078 5,089 2,208
Fertilizer Only 645 1,698 2,587 7,452
No Fertilizer Grass lb. Weed lb. Grass lb. Weed lb.
Early herbicide, no fertilizer 1,330 202 4,987 0
Late herbicide, no fertilizer 477 377 4,898 1,266
Shredding, no fertilizer 341 761 4,787 998
Check, no fertilizer or herbicide 377 1,127 1,385 4,252

Study by David Bade, Ph.D., and Paul Baumann, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service


Connect with Range & Pasture:



® Trademark of Corteva Agriscience and its affiliated companies. Under normal field conditions, DuraCor® is nonvolatile. DuraCor has no grazing or haying restrictions for any class of livestock, including lactating dairy cows, horses (including lactating mares) and meat animals prior to slaughter. Label precautions apply to forage treated with DuraCor to manure and urine from animals that have consumed treated forage. 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.

Range & Pasture Steward Newsletter

Learn about seasonal opportunities, rancher success stories, and management strategies for pastures and rangeland.

Explore Articles →

Subscribe to Steward →