Pennsylvania: Herbicide Recommendations for Winter Small Grains

    Weeds germinating in seedling wheat. Photo: Dwight Lingenfelter, Pennsylvania State University

    Dense populations of winter annual weeds can compete with fall-seeded wheat, barley, and other small grains in late fall and early spring and slow the rate of crop development potentially reducing yield. If winter annual weeds like common chickweed, henbit, marestail, winter annual grasses, and others emerge with the small grain and are left unchecked, the potential impact on yield could be great.

    In these situations, it may make sense to kill these weeds in the fall rather than early spring. Harmony Extra (or generic equivalent) is still one of the most widely used broad-spectrum herbicides for broadleaf weed control. Fall applications have been more consistent than spring applications for weed control in regional trials. However, it has its weaknesses and other options, or tank-mixes should be considered.

    The table below summarizes some fall herbicide options for small grains. Check a current herbicide label for the latest use information. Here are some “best bets” for common problem weeds:

    • Common chickweed: Harmony Extra is still effective on it in many parts of the state however, there are pockets of resistant populations starting to thrive. Tank-mix with Quelex or Starane Ultra or include Metricor (metribuzin) in your spray program if ALS-resistant chickweed is prevalent.
    • Marestail: products such as 2,4-D, dicamba, Huskie, Quelex and Stinger applied POST have activity on this weed.
    • Speedwell species: there are several speedwell (Veronica) species, including corn, common, ivyleaf, and others in our area. Depending on the species, their life cycle is either annual or perennial. Many of the commonly used small grain herbicides provide little or no control of speedwell. Harmony Extra + Quelex has provided control of ivyleaf speedwell (better than either herbicide applied alone). The same with Harmony Extra + Starane Ultra. PowerFlex has provided control/suppression of certain speedwell species in some university trials. Finesse has a few annual and perennial speedwells listed on its label and usually provides about 80% control of them. Be cautious of crop rotation intervals if using Finesse. If speedwell is small, Aim provides some control/suppression. Metricor also has activity on speedwell when its small.
    • Brome species (downy brome, chess, cheat): herbicide options include Anthem Flex/Zidua, Finesse, Osprey, and PowerFlex.
    • Annual ryegrass: Anthem Flex/Zidua, Axiom, Axial, Finesse, Osprey, Prowl, and PowerFlex have activity on this weed.
    • Annual bluegrass: active herbicides include, Axiom, Anthem Flex/Zidua, Metricor, Finesse, and Osprey.
    • Roughstalk bluegrass: a tall (>3 feet), cool-season perennial that is becoming more of a problem in small grain and forage fields across the state. As it matures, it typically turns reddish-tan and sets seed prior to summer and goes dormant until the fall and remains green during the winter months. Osprey, Axial, and PowerFlex provide control/suppression of it. Fall and early spring are the best times to apply effective herbicides. Osprey provides the most consistent control and generally works better on this weed in the fall, however, early spring applications have proven effective too.

    For any of these applications, make sure to include the necessary spray adjuvants. Remember that cool (less than 50°F) cloudy days can reduce herbicide activity. Also, if you plan to frost-seed or drill a companion crop such as red clover in early spring it may be best to make a fall herbicide application to avoid certain issues with herbicide residuals affecting their establishment.

    However, even if products such as PowerFlex, Osprey, Metricor, and others are applied in the fall, their recrop restrictions still prevent seeding of certain crops next spring. Burndown herbicides for no-till small grains include dicamba, Gramoxone, glyphosate, Harmony Extra, Sharpen, and Reviton (wheat only). Refer to the specific product label for more application information.

    The legitimate use of 2,4-D for burndown in wheat and other small grains is uncertain. None of the 2,4-D ester or amine labels specify application just prior to small grain seeding or emergence. Some research suggests a minimum delay of 7-10 days after application at rates up to 1 pint/A 2,4-D ester. Since 2,4-D burndown in small grains is ambiguous at best, if injury occurs liability rests with the consultant or applicator.

    Also, for those looking for herbicides that legally can be sprayed in cereal rye, especially for weedy grass control, the choices are limited. Audit 1:1 (similar to Harmony Extra) recently received a label for use in cereal rye.

    When controlling weedy grasses in wheat, it may be necessary to tankmix residual products like Anthem Flex/Zidua with those that have foliar activity such as Osprey, PowerFlex, Finesse, or Axial products to obtain control of existing grassy weeds that have already germinated. These tankmixes are typically applied as a delayed PRE (i.e., a few days after planting) or as an early POST (spike to early tillering stages) treatment in the fall. Make sure to use correct adjuvants per label guidelines otherwise poor weed control could result.

    Common Fall Herbicide Options for Small Grains

    Herbicide Crops Strengths Growth stage Remarks, if any
    2,4-D Wheat, barley, rye, triticale, oats Marestail, mustards, dandelion 3–6 Best to apply when small grain is 4 to 8 inches tall
    Aim Wheat, barley, rye, triticale, oats Star-of-Bethlehem, pennycress 1–5
    Anthem Flex Wheat Annual broadleaves, annual bluegrass, brome spp., annual ryegrass delayed pre to early post (1-3) Does not control emerged weeds; suppression only of chickweed and marestail
    Axial XL/ Star / Bold Wheat, barley Annual/Italian ryegrass (weak on other weedy grasses) 2–8 No control of ACCase-resistant species
    Axiom wheat, triticale Several annual broadleaves, annual bluegrass, and annual ryegrass spike-1 (2-leaf)
    Clarity / dicamba Wheat, barley, rye, triticale, oats Marestail, thistles 3–6 Low use rate tends to make it weaker on several species, esp. common chickweed
    Finesse Cereal and Fallow Wheat, barley, triticale Most broadleaves, speedwell, suppresses annual, bluegrass, annual ryegrass, and brome species pre to 8 Pre-wheat only; watch recrop restrictions
    Harmony Extra / Express Wheat, barley, triticale, oats Most broadleaves, garlic; wild carrot suppression 1–7 Will not control ALS-resistant chickweed
    Huskie Wheat, barley, rye, triticale Most small broadleaves 1–7 Has good activity on marestail at higher rates
    Maestro Wheat, barley, rye, triticale, oats Mustards, wild buckwheat 1–9 Apply when weeds are <2 inches tall
    MCPA Wheat, barley, rye, oats Same as 2,4-D 3–6
    Metricor Wheat, barley ALS-resistant common chickweed 1–5 Controls other winter annual broadleaves; wheat safety is best at early spring application (greenup)
    Osprey Wheat, triticale Annual/Italian ryegrass, annual bluegrass, roughstalk bluegrass 1–5 Controls some broadleaves and suppresses brome species
    Peak Wheat, barley, rye, triticale, oats Mustards, garlic; wild carrot suppression 2–6 Watch recrop restrictions
    PowerFlex HL Wheat, triticale Annual/Italian ryegrass, brome species; only suppresses annual and roughstalk bluegrass, quackgrass (fall applications tend to be best for control) 3-leaf to 6 Controls some broadleaves, speedwell; will not control ALS-resistant chickweed; Crop stunting and chlorosis may occur after application
    Prowl H20 Wheat, triticale Annual ryegrass, some annual broadleaves 1–7 Apply after small grain emergence but before weeds have emerged
    Quelex Wheat, barley, triticale Marestail, common chickweed (non-ALS resistant), some other annual broadleaves 2–8 Slow acting on weeds; watch recrop restrictions
    Sharpen Wheat, barley, rye, triticale, oats Marestail, some annual broadleaves before crop emergence Controls existing marestail at burndown
    Starane Ultra/Flex Wheat, barley, rye, triticale, oats Chickweed (including ALS-resistant) 2–9
    Stinger Wheat, barley, oats Thistles and marestail 2–9 Watch recrop restrictions
    Talinor Wheat, barley Some annual broadleaves 2–9 Watch recrop restrictions
    Valor SX or EZ Wheat Some annual broadleaves 7-days early preplant Improves marestail control; plant wheat at least 1 inch deep
    Zidua Wheat Annual broadleaves, annual bluegrass, brome spp., annual ryegrass 1–3; delayed pre to early post (4 tillers) Does not control emerged weeds; suppression only of chickweed and marestail

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