Get Ahead or Stay Behind: Keys to Successful Preemerge Applications

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Healthy lawn - Raleigh

When it comes to weed control, there are two places you can be: ahead or behind. Getting behind is easy; getting ahead, on the other hand, takes planning and commitment. But the payoff in reduced weed pressure throughout the year makes the upfront effort more than worthwhile.

“If you get ahead of summer weed pressure, you’re going to be better off throughout the year,” says Dr. Jared Hoyle, market development specialist, Corteva Agriscience. “This won’t come as news to most people, but still, we get busy with wintertime duties; then before we know it, weeds have germinated and we’re already behind.”

So how can a busy superintendent or turf manager avoid getting behind on weed control? The first step is to stop thinking about weeds as a seasonal problem and to start thinking about weed control as a year-round job.

“Depending on where you are, preemerge season can be pretty much year-round,” says Nic Mitchell, territory manager, Corteva Agriscience. “Folks are seeing winter annuals in the courses, in the beds around the courses, and wondering what they can do to prevent those and how they can start the year clean.”

For many superintendents and turf managers, that means getting preemergence applications out earlier. But how can you do that and avoid the risk of weed pressure outrunning your residual control? These tips will give you a good start.

  • Identify key weed pests and conditions. The foundation of any effective weed control program is an accurate identification of the weeds you’re facing combined with an objective assessment of the climatic conditions in your specific location.

    “Don’t assume anything,” Mitchell says. “Weed problems on your course could be totally different from a course a few miles away, just due to the microenvironment, localized rainfall and other factors. Learn from the experiences of other superintendents in your area, but consider your unique conditions and make your own plan.”
  • Choose the right weed control product. Once you have a good handle on your specific weed pests and conditions, you can begin to match your problem weeds with a specific product. Mitchell advises looking for a product that not only controls your worst weeds, but offers flexibility in timing and application method.

    “Look at a product like Dimension specialty herbicide,” Mitchell says. “What makes Dimension unique compared with other traditional preemerge herbicides is the level of post control on crabgrass it provides. If you’re in the cool-season areas, it gives you the flexibility to control crabgrass up to the one-tiller stage. If you’re in a southern area, it will control crabgrass to the five-tiller stage. That said, it is a true preemergent product, so we need to get it down prior to germination. But knowing it has that post ability on crabgrass really gives flexibility to the superintendent.”
  • Choose your timing. In a perfect world, we’d get our pre applications down the day before a soaking rain and a week before the first weed emerges. But weather and weeds rarely combine for a perfect world, and busy superintendents may be forced to choose between agronomically optimal timing and a more reality-based application schedule.

    “There are a lot of different factors that may not be agronomic, but that still force a shift in our management practices,” Hoyle says. “A superintendent may think, ‘I should get an application out now, while we have the time and resources to do it,’ or ‘Maybe I should consider a different product, one that I can put out earlier or later.’ We tend to think about the agronomic aspects of our program first, but we have to consider other influences as well.”

    Those influences may include application equipment, available labor, or other applications like fertilizer or insecticide. But a product such as Dimension specialty herbicide offers a level of flexibility that makes it a perfect fit in a wide range of weed control programs.

    “With Dimension, you can use it as a granular product, you can spray it, you can apply it on-fertilizer,” Hoyle says. “You can use it in whatever equipment you have. Plus, Dimension gives you flexibility in that you don’t have that very narrow window within which it needs to be watered in. So you can put it out early or late, all knowing that it’ll work.”
  • Follow the label directions. The most important step any superintendent or turf manager can take is using the preferred preemergence product according to the directions on the label.

    “Whichever preemerge product works for you and your course, make sure you’re using it right,” Mitchell says. “That means using the right rates, the right application methods, and targeting labeled weeds.”

    And while it should go without saying, making sure your preemergence product is watered in will help maximize return on your application investment.

    “Doing the simple things first will get you the most benefit,” Hoyle says. “That means: Don’t apply a pre on X date just because that’s when you always apply a pre. If I apply when there’s no rain in the forecast, I can’t blame the herbicide if there’s a failure; we have to understand what these products will and won’t do.”


At the end of the day, effective weed control — regardless of the season — means having a plan and being ready to execute when the time is right.

“It’s an important conversation to be having right now,” Hoyle says. “Nature has thrown us so many curveballs already, so it’s critical for turf managers and superintendents to be a step ahead and not be reactive.”


State restrictions on the sale and use of Dimension® apply. Consult the label before purchase or use for full details. Always read and follow label directions. 


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