Weedy Wheat Puts Kansas Farmers in Tricky Spot


by Emily Unglesbee, DTN Staff Reporter

LAWRENCE, Kan. (DTN) — Many Kansas wheat farmers are seeing green where they'd rather see gold this summer.

“The weeds are now growing fast in most fields and the shorter wheat plants (8-12 inches) are being overtaken by weeds,” Deerfield, Kan., farmer Max Engler told DTN in an e-mail. “In most cases the small, thin wheat has a thick canopy of weeds covering the wheat already.”

Engler's problem is widespread across the state, said Dallas Peterson, a weed management specialist with Kansas State University.

“We're seeing a lot of wheat around the state that has weeds coming through it,” he told DTN. “That's because we had such a thin, short wheat crop that wasn't very competitive with weeds, and we got a lot of moisture here in the last month or two that brought the weeds on, and they had open canopies to grow through. Now with harvest being delayed, it has really allowed them to come up and be a problem for farmers.”

Late-season weed growth not only complicates grain harvest, but forces some farmers to weigh the pros and cons of spraying herbicide on an already delayed and low-yielding wheat crop.


Harvesting weedy wheat without spraying can result in docking at the elevator and likely increased moisture levels,” Peterson said.

With weather-damaged wheat fields looking dismal this spring, many farmers downgraded or abandoned their usual spring herbicide application. As a result, the weeds have had months to grow. “These weeds are big, and so they are harder to control,” Peterson explained. “You have to make sure you get good spray coverage which, in many cases, requires a higher spray volume.”

For some farmers, the math might not support spraying. “It's not always a win-win situation,” Peterson concluded. “Many farmers out there have really poor wheat and not very good yields. It can be hard to justify.”

Engler considers the areas where his weeds have completely overrun his wheat to be a lost cause. “I will probably not cut the wheat where the weeds are taller than the wheat, unless it is in the better wheat, then we'll have to slow down and try to cut the weeds along with the wheat,” he wrote.

Peterson urged growers who are considering abandoning some fields to consult their crop insurance agent. Policies may require farmers to harvest everything in order to receive an insurance payout for lost yields.


Paraquat is not labeled for pre-harvest applications in wheat, Peterson stressed. Farmers who spray mature wheat with this burndown herbicide can be fined and have their crop quarantined and destroyed.

Farmers who are holding back wheat for seed, planning to use the straw for livestock feed, or dealing with drought-stressed plants should also be careful to check for additional restrictions on their herbicides.

Products with dicamba and glyphosate are not recommended for wheat grown for seed. Others, like metsulfuron and 2,4-D, should not be used on wheat intended for livestock or under drought stress.

Peterson has produced a helpful chart that explains the target weeds of each herbicide, as well as their pre-harvest interval and the speed at which they work. See the chart here: http://goo.gl/….


Spraying wheat now means farmers must then wait out the pre-harvest interval of the herbicide they choose, which can range from three to 14 days, depending on the product they pick.

“The other problem is that a lot of these herbicides are slow acting,” Peterson added. “Even after you get it on, you're going to have to wait awhile for it to work on the weeds in order to make harvest easier.”

Already, the Kansas wheat harvest is running behind its average pace, thanks to heavy, statewide rainfall in June. USDA's most recent crop progress report pegged the harvest at only 40{ba1edae1e6da4446a8482f505d60d3b8e379ff6dedafe596d9ba4611a4e33a48} complete, compared to a five-year average of 66{ba1edae1e6da4446a8482f505d60d3b8e379ff6dedafe596d9ba4611a4e33a48} complete.

Engler said his better, taller wheat has proven more competitive with a recent flush of weed growth, but some weeds are starting to poke through in those fields as well.

Heavy rains in his area have kept him out of the field, and the season has turned into a race to harvest before weeds overtake the rest of his wheat. “It will probably be sometime next week before the flat channels of the terraces will support a combine,” he wrote. He planned to get back in the field July 3 and will concentrate on areas with the best wheat “before the weeds make it prohibitive.”



© Copyright 2014 DTN/The Progressive Farmer. All rights reserved

Posted with DTN Permission by Haylie Shipp



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