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Fall-Applied Herbicides: Setting up for a Successful Spring

  • Fall-applied herbicides are a valuable tool to manage tough-to-control weeds like marestail.
  • Fall herbicides may allow for an earlier start the following spring, as soil temperatures warm up and dry faster when weeds are eliminated in the fall.
  • Winter annual weeds like henbit and purple deadnettle can be hosts of soybean cyst nematodes.
  • The use of residual herbicides in early fall will help mitigate weed emergence late in the season.

The increasing prevalence of fall herbicide applications to control winter annual weeds may indicate that growers are becoming more aware of the benefits that these applications provide.Fall-applied herbicides can be very effective at managing annual and perennial weeds, including some tough-to-control/ resistant weeds like marestail. Additionally, fields where weeds are managed in the fall are often the most weed free in the spring. Elimination of weed cover and growth in the fall allows the soil to dry out and warm up more rapidly, and ultimately allows for an earlier start of the season the following spring. Winter annual weed control can also provide additional benefits as it relates to insect, disease, and rodent populations. Insects such as black cutworms, will lay eggs in fields with green vegetation in the spring but will be less attracted to fields without vegetative growth. Similarly, wildlife animals, such as voles, are less likely to invade weed free fields. Additionally, a few winter annual weeds, including purple deadnettle and henbit, are hosts of soybean cyst nematodes.

When choosing a fall herbicide program, the weed spectrum must be considered.For control of perennial weeds, such as dandelion, the best time for management is in the fall.In this case, the application of a combination of glyphosate + 2,4-D should suffice.This combination will also provide adequate control of many winter annual weeds that have already emerged.The use of 2,4-D in combination with dicamba is also a good option for fields that contain only broadleaf weeds.However, the lack of an adequate residual component with these programs will allow new weeds to emerge later in the season, especially if the application is made early. In these situations, the 2,4-D + glyphosate/ dicamba programs are an excellent option towards the end of fall.

For early fall applications, the use of a residual herbicide is necessary to manage weeds that germinate later in the season. In situations where glyphosate-resistant marestail is present, the use of a residual herbicide will help provide fall and early spring control. Control of marestail at germination or at the rosette stage in the fall is much more effective than spring burndown applications after bolting. The potential downside of using a fall residual herbicide is reduced rotational flexibility. Many herbicides will allow you to plant corn and soybeans without restrictions the following season while others will limit your crop options. Crop rotation restrictions will also vary with the rate of the herbicide used so always read and follow the product label and plan accordingly.

Finally, it is important to remember that fall herbicide applications are not a substitute for spring residual herbicide applications. Weeds are more easily controlled if never allowed to emerge, so incorporate spring residual herbicides followed by in-crop applications to control summer annual weeds, including glyphosate-resistant waterhemp. 

Marestail Rosette


Bolted marestail


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