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Naming weeds in Indiana causes confusion.

Tom J Bechman 1, Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

December 19, 2006

2 Min Read

FFA students were getting ready for the state crops judging contest recently when one of their parents did a double-take. One student held up a plant, and the other guessed 'horseweed.' "That's right," the student said and prepared to go to the next specimen. Students must identify several dozen common Indiana weed and crop plants and seeds.

"Wait a minute," the parent broke in. "That's marestail, not horseweed." All the parent got back were blank stares. To the students the weed that shows up in no-till soybeans, the weed that gives glyphosate fits in many cases, is horseweed.

Depending upon where you live in the state, this whole discussion may have you truly confused. For decades in slang talk amongst farmers in Indiana 'horseweed' was this huge, girthy weed with big leaves and yellow, choking pollen in August- that's right, giant ragweed.

Glenn Nice, Purdue weed control specialist, laughs that the naming game for weeds is actually no joke, and adds his own anecdote. "One of my first assignments was to give Extension talks on weed control," he says. "I gave a presentation to a group of farmers in northern Indiana, and talked a lot about giant ragweed. It was a tough problem there, especially then. The looks I got made me wonder if I was getting through. One guy looked at me like I was from outer space.

"The meeting ended and the farmer who seemed especially perplexed walked up. Suddenly his face brightened. "Hey, when you talking about that giant ragweed, did you mean horseweed?" To him, giant ragweed was horseweed, so much so that he didn't recognize it by any other name.

Name game

The name that a weed goes by in farmer lingo varies by location, Nice says. But there are standards set up by groups that deal with weed identification.

As it turns out, the crop judging students were right. 'Marestail' is officially referred to as horseweed in the official North-Central States Weed Guide. What Indiana farmers need to realize is that if a label mentions horseweed, it's talking about marestail, not giant ragweed.
Referring to giant ragweed as horseweed appears to be a local phenomenon in Indiana and a few other parts of the Midwest.

"It's important to understand which species of weed you're actually talking about so you can sift through herbicide labels, and arrive at an effective weed control program for that weed," Nice says.

About the Author(s)

Tom J Bechman 1

Editor, Indiana Prairie Farmer

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