Farm Progress

In recent weeks, growers have reported soybean seedling injuries, but warm temperatures will help seedlings recover.

June 13, 2017

3 Min Read
PLANTS WILL SURVIVE: Soybean seedlings with PPO-inhibiting herbicide injury only on cotyledons usually develop normally. This photo shows a brown neck that is still firm with green cotyledons; this plant will probably survive.Debalin Sarangi

By Amit Jhala

Residual herbicides applied after planting but before soybean emergence are important weed management tools for early-season weed control. PPO-inhibiting herbicides (Group 14, herbicide mode of action classification), applied alone or in premix or tankmix with other herbicides are widely applied for residual weed control in soybean. Once applied, several factors can affect weed control efficacy and crop safety.

Injury from residual application of PPO-inhibitors is not common and can be confused with symptoms of soybean seedling disease. When PPO-inhibitor injury does occur, the severity of soybean injury is largely determined by environmental factors. Cool, wet soil conditions, as experienced this year after planting, can enhance soybean injury from soil-applied herbicides. Soybean plants growing under favorable conditions can adequately metabolize PPO-inhibiting herbicides before injury symptoms are expressed. But when soybeans are under stress, their ability to metabolize herbicide can be reduced to a point where injury symptoms develop.

Symptoms showing up
For the last couple of weeks, numerous phone calls and reports regarding soybean seedling injuries have come in. In the majority of these fields, the cotyledons are reddish brown, as is the hypocotyl, especially when in the neck stage. This appears to be happening to all cultivars from all companies and is not seed-specific.

SYMPTOMS OF INJURY: Reddish-colored hypocotyl tissue near the soil surface is a typical symptom of PPO-inhibiting herbicides in poorly drained soils. (Photo by Debalin Sarangi)

Most fields with injury have been sprayed with flumioxazin-based herbicides (Envive, Enlight, Fierce, Fierce XLT, Rowel, Rowel FX, Trivence, Valor, and Valor XLT). A few fields were also sprayed with other commonly used PPO-inhibitor herbicides containing sulfentrazone (Authority brand herbicides, Spartan, Sonic) or saflufenacil (Sharpen, OpTill). They have shown the same symptoms.

The herbicide label of most PPO-inhibitors states:

• Application should be made within three days of planting soybeans.

• Crop injury may occur from applications made to poorly drained soils under cool, wet conditions.

• Risk of crop injury can be minimized by not applying this herbicide on poorly drained soils, planting at least 1.5 inches deep and completely covering seeds with soil prior to preemergence applications.

• If flumioxazin-based herbicide is applied after soybeans have begun to crack, or are emerged, this will result in severe crop injury.

Several areas with soybean seedling injuries from PPO-inhibitors received over 4 inches of rain in late May. This would constitute "poorly drained soil."

Moving forward
When scouting for potential herbicide damage, open up the cotyledons to see if they are green. If the necks are firm and the inside of the cotyledons are green, it is likely the seedling will survive. A brown neck that is still firm with green cotyledons will probably survive.

Taking stand counts of soybean plants will be useful to determine plant population and replant decision. If your plant population is about 80,000 evenly spaced plants per acre in 30-inch rows, yield should not be affected. This is typical in most soybean fields. Warm temperatures and little or no precipitation the last 10 days will help soybean seedlings grow and recover from this injury.

Remember that PPO-inhibiting herbicides do not cause injury every year. They have a risk, as do all herbicides, depending on weather. PPO-inhibiting herbicides provide residual activity against many tough-to-control weeds and can be valuable tools in the battle against common waterhemp, Palmer amaranth and common lambsquarters.

Jhala is a Nebraska Extension weed management specialist. This report comes from UNL CropWatch.


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