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Managing Your Weeds in Wheat this Spring
By: Tommy Butts, Extension Weed Scientist and Jason Kelley, Wheat & Feed Grains Extension
Some favorable grain prices has led to a slight increase in wheat acres across Arkansas
for 2021. The National Agriculture Statistics Service Acreage Report earlier this
week indicated that Arkansas producers planted 180,000 acres of wheat during the fall
of 2020. Questions regarding weed control recommendations have been rolling in. Italian
ryegrass is by far the most troublesome and requires the most effort to successfully
manage; however, annual bluegrass (Poa annua) and winter annual broadleaves also present some challenges.
Italian ryegrass is a highly competitive weed species with prolific growth characteristics
and adaptability that makes it a challenging weed to manage. Additionally, it has
evolved herbicide resistance to ALS-inhibitors (PowerFlex HL, Osprey), ACCase-inhibitors
(FOPS, Axial XL), and glyphosate in Arkansas. Italian ryegrass has also been unofficially
confirmed resistant to the ACCase-inhibitor, clethodim (Select Max) in areas of south
Arkansas. Therefore, it is necessary to know your ryegrass population and appropriately
select effective herbicide options to manage it POST in wheat (Fig. 1). ALS-inhibitor resistance in
ryegrass is extremely common across Arkansas (>65% of populations tested have been
confirmed resistant) so typically herbicides such as PowerFlex HL and Osprey are not
considered good control options. Pinoxaden (Axial) resistance, although confirmed
in the state, has been much less prevalent (~20% of populations tested were confirmed
resistant). Therefore, the best option for spring control of Italian ryegrass is to
apply Axial Bold at 15 fl oz/ac when it is actively growing (at least 7 days of temperatures
above 55°F). Be aware, if broadleaves are also present, Axial Bold has no activity
on broadleaves and should not be tank-mixed with 2,4-D as efficacy will be reduced.
If a broadleaf herbicide tank-mix partner is needed with Axial Bold, Harmony Extra
and Quelex are good options. For more information on Italian ryegrass ID, resistance,
and control, please see FSA2191 Management of Italian Ryegrass in Agronomic Crops.
In addition to Italian ryegrass, there are numerous winter annual broadleaf weeds
that may pop up such as mayweed, buttercup, hairy vetch, henbit, and wild garlic/onion
(Fig. 2). PowerFlex HL, 2,4-D, Quelex, Harmony Extra, Express, and Peak are all good
options for managing these broadleaf weeds. Please see the Wheat section (pg. 83)
of the 2021 MP44 Recommended Chemicals for Weed and Brush Control for specific recommendations regarding the best herbicide option and rate for each
of these weeds dependent on your field scenario. Horseweed has also shown to be problematic
in our wheat acres. Quelex (0.75 oz/ac) or 2,4-D (1.5 pt/ac) will provide the greatest
Another problematic grass weed species we’ve received a couple of phone calls on is
annual bluegrass (Poa annua). If wheat has a good stand and canopy, POST herbicide control options may not always
be economical, but if the wheat has a poor stand, limited growth, or has been grazed
by geese, a herbicide application may be required. There are limited options to successfully
manage Poa in wheat this time of year if metribuzin or Zidua was not applied in the fall. The
best option for control is Osprey at 4.75 oz/ac; however, expect control to be slow.
Additionally, make sure to follow label recommendations for adjuvants to maximize
the effectiveness; typically, 3 lb/ac of ammonium sulfate (AMS) plus 0.25% v/v NIS
Applications of any spring herbicides in wheat should be applied around green-up,
which is typically in February/early March. This allows herbicides, especially systemic
ones, to be more effective on weeds that are actively growing and early enough to
still apply to small weeds.
If you have any questions regarding spring weed control in wheat, please don’t hesitate
to reach out to either of us. Good luck out there!
Extension Weed Scientist
Wheat & Feed Grains Extension Agronomist