Troublesome Weeds: Virginia Buttonweed

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Virginia buttonweed

It has been called “the number one weed problem of southern lawns” by the Louisiana State University Ag Center and “one of the most difficult-to-control broadleaf weeds in turf” by Dr. Jim Brosnan and Greg Breeden at the University of Tennessee.

What is it? Virginia buttonweed.

“It’s a problem every single summer,” said Phil Bruner, Corteva Turf and Ornamental territory manager. “It's a bear to deal with and can slip through program cracks for a lot of turf managers.”

What makes Virginia buttonweed so challenging?

Bruner says it’s a threefold problem:

  • It produces flowers above and below the surface, sneaking under the herbicide barrier.
  • Its tap roots allow for survival through the winter.
  • Mowing can help it spread because rhizomes and stem pieces can spread out after being cut and self-pollinate.

How do you control Virginia buttonweed?

Virginia buttonweed is generally handled postemergently, according to Bruner. If you’re in warm-season turf, better chemistry options are available, but for cold-season turf like fescue, the control options are a bit more complex, he said.  

“With your typical three-way products, you’re expecting at least two applications to start dinging up the buttonweed and that’s a real pain,” Bruner said. “That’s time and labor — you've got other things to do.”

On Bermudagrass zoysia turf and all cool-season, commercial turf, GameOn® specialty herbicide is especially effective when mixed with Defendor® specialty herbicide.

“We’re seeing really great results in one application with these highly systemic herbicides that are penetrating throughout the whole plant, down to the tap root and getting the systemwide death of the buttonweed,” Bruner said. “That’s really encouraging.”

There are at least eight species of Virginia buttonweed in the U.S., with four in the lower 48, and four more in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and other territories.

“Be on the lookout and get on it,” Bruner said. “Whatever your program is calling for right now, make sure that you have an herbicide with an active ingredient that is going to get on that weed. That's going to help nip it in the bud.”

What’s on the horizon for Virginia buttonweed control?

As part of its commitment to innovation, Corteva Agriscience actively partners with universities to research new and effective control methods by studying everything from tank-mixing to treatment timing.  

“Out of all the tools in the tool chest, we’re looking at what is the combination, what is the timing that's going to help out the most,” Bruner said. 

State restrictions on the sale and use of Defendor® apply. Consult the label before purchase or use for full details. GameOn® is not registered for sale or use in all states. 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.


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