Farm Progress

One wrong herbicide can wipe out a field

Know which herbicides can be sprayed where to avoid making a costly mistake.

Tom J. Bechman, Midwest Crops Editor

June 13, 2024

2 Min Read
A soybean plot with dead plants
COMPLETE WIPEOUT: The soybeans growing in this plot did not have tolerance to the herbicide intentionally sprayed here. The results were immediate and catastrophic. Tom J. Bechman

“What’s wrong with these soybeans, son?”

“They’re just a bit dinged up after I sprayed this week, Dad. They will come back.”

“I am not so sure — let’s look closer.”

Father and son look, and sure enough, soybeans are dying. They won’t come back. What went wrong?

“What did you spray there?” Dad asks.

“Just what we spray on all Enlist soybeans,” his son answers. “You told me those two back fields were Enlist varieties.”

“I thought they were,” Dad responds. “Grab the planting notebook out of the tractor cab. We can double-check, but I am sure they were Enlist beans.”

After the son retrieves the notebook and looks, no one is happy. “Says here you switched to Xtend varieties halfway across the field, right where beans are dying,” Dad says.

“You know what, I did,” the son recalls. “We ran low on Enlist beans and I wanted to finish before it rained. I forgot.”

Could this happen to you? Everyone forgets, but these days, forgetting and not double-checking records — either written or electronic — can prove costly.

“We still hear about more instances like this than we think we should,” says Bill Johnson, Purdue Extension weed control specialist. “Part of it happens because of scenarios like this one, where memory didn’t match the notebook. Some of it still comes back to not understanding which herbicides could be applied over soybeans or corn with certain traits. We see it in both crops.”

Limit spraying error

Bryan Young, Purdue weed scientist, recommends reading herbicide labels and seed bag tags carefully. “Unfortunately, it seems like some seed companies don’t make it clear on the seed tags which herbicides hybrids or varieties can tolerate,” he says. “I have examined seed tags from various companies recently, and you often must peel the tag open or look very carefully to find which herbicides can be applied. Some seed product detail pages don’t even list herbicide resistance traits.”

Johnson agrees. “When some of these traits first entered the market, many bags were clearly marked on the bag itself for herbicide-tolerance traits, besides on the seed tag,” he says. “Recently, it seems like the trend is away from those easier-to-see, conspicuous markings.”

That can open the door for even more error, Johnson says. His best advice is to read tags carefully, understand what can be applied on which crops, keep careful records, and then check those records before spraying.

Refer to the table below as a general guide to help understand which products can be sprayed on crops with specific traits. Always refer to the herbicide and seed tag label information as well.

A table depicting crop herbicide traits

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About the Author(s)

Tom J. Bechman

Midwest Crops Editor, Farm Progress

Tom J. Bechman became the Midwest Crops editor at Farm Progress in 2024 after serving as editor of Indiana Prairie Farmer for 23 years. He joined Farm Progress in 1981 as a field editor, first writing stories to help farmers adjust to a difficult harvest after a tough weather year. His goal today is the same — writing stories that help farmers adjust to a changing environment in a profitable manner.

Bechman knows about Indiana agriculture because he grew up on a small dairy farm and worked with young farmers as a vocational agriculture teacher and FFA advisor before joining Farm Progress. He works closely with Purdue University specialists, Indiana Farm Bureau and commodity groups to cover cutting-edge issues affecting farmers. He specializes in writing crop stories with a focus on obtaining the highest and most economical yields possible.

Tom and his wife, Carla, have four children: Allison, Ashley, Daniel and Kayla, plus eight grandchildren. They raise produce for the food pantry and house 4-H animals for the grandkids on their small acreage near Franklin, Ind.

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