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4 steps for effective weed control during drought

Drought created soybean weed control challenges across the Midwest and Plains in 2023. Here’s how to overcome those challenges in future seasons.

December 1, 2023

4 Min Read
4 steps for effective weed control during drought
Submitted by Corteva Agriscience

Soybean farmers across the Midwest and Plains struggled with drought and dry weather throughout 2023. And, forecasts show, dry conditions may persist in 2024, depending on the location. Luckily, there are lessons you can take from this season to prepare for future challenges, particularly when it comes to weed control.

How Drought Impacts Weed Control

Enlist® Field Specialist Steve Snyder says there are a couple of reasons drought makes weed control more difficult.

“First, residual herbicides need moisture, most requiring at least ¼ inch to ½ inch of rain, to activate and continue protecting your soybeans,” he says. “But during drought, you might not get necessary rainfall for residual activation, allowing weed seeds to germinate and grow.”

Snyder says another challenge is some weeds will literally become tougher during drought.

“Certain varieties like kochia develop a thick, waxy cuticle to conserve water, making it more difficult for herbicides to penetrate weed tissue for effective control,” he says.

Effective Weed Control During Drought

If you’re facing dry conditions next year, Snyder has four steps for better weed control:

1 . Plan a program approach — “Use a program approach with burndown, pre- and postemergence applications, including several modes of action plus overlapping residuals,” he says. “This will help keep soybeans protected if weather impairs the efficacy of one of your passes.”

For Enlist E3® soybeans, Snyder recommends starting with Sonic® herbicide preemergence, which offers two modes of action and several weeks’ residual activity, and then applying Enlist One® and Liberty® herbicides together with a residual such as EverpreX® herbicide postemergence.

“Enlist One plus Liberty is the most effective postemergence treatment to control difficult weeds like kochia and waterhemp. Along with Sonic and EverpreX, you’ve got five different modes of action and extended residual activity in one program,” he says. “This will not only help control your trouble weeds but also mitigate resistance and help overcome setbacks drought creates.”

2 . Use the right tank mix — Snyder says you may need to increase herbicide rates and evaluate the adjuvants you’re putting in the tank during drought.

“If you have weeds developing thick cuticles, consider adjusting your adjuvant package,” he says. “Maybe you planned to use a nonionic surfactant and find, in talking with your retailer, you actually need a crop oil or a methylated seed oil to penetrate that waxy weed layer.”

3 . Time applications correctly — Snyder says the right herbicide application timing is especially important when weather is tricky.

“You should always put down contact herbicides when weeds are small — about 2 inches tall — for best control. This timing becomes critical when conditions aren’t perfect,” he says. “And, if you catch a little rain in the forecast, try to apply shortly before. That could activate residuals — and prevent 2-inch waterhemp from turning into 6-inch waterhemp within a few days.”

4 . Stay flexible — Finally, Snyder recommends starting the season with a plan but being ready to change.

“You may need to switch products or adjust application timing — little tweaks like that. Stay alert and pivot, if necessary,” he says. “The Enlist weed control system offers great flexibility for these situations. Not only are Enlist E3 soybeans tolerant to three postemergence herbicides — 2,4-D choline, found in Enlist herbicides; glyphosate; and glufosinate, the active ingredient in Liberty herbicide — Enlist One herbicide is compatible with more than 1,700 tank-mix partners.”

Looking for more expert advice as you plan your 2024 weed control program? The Enlist field specialists are here to help through the A Step Ahead webinar series. Visit the webinar page on Enlist.com to register for upcoming sessions or watch previously recorded videos.

® Enlist, Enlist Duo, Enlist E3, Enlist One, EverpreX and Sonic are trademarks of Corteva Agriscience and its affiliated companies. ® Liberty is a registered trademark of BASF. The transgenic soybean event in Enlist E3® soybeans is jointly developed and owned by Corteva Agriscience and M.S. Technologies L.L.C. Enlist Duo® and Enlist One® herbicides are not registered for sale or use in all states or counties. Contact your state pesticide regulatory agency to determine if a product is registered for sale or use in your area. Enlist Duo and Enlist One herbicides are the only 2,4-D products authorized for use with Enlist® crops. Consult Enlist herbicide labels for weed species controlled. EverpreX® and Sonic® are 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. © 2023 Corteva.

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