I’ve heard some stories in recent years — both passionate and very sad, unfortunately — of no-tillers having to pull out a tillage implement to deal with weed problems that got away from them.
A variety of things can conspire together to make weed management difficult. If you’re struggling with kochia, Palmer amaranth or other weeds on your no-till operation this year, it’s important to take a wide, wholistic view of what’s happening in your fields and resist the temptation to reach for tillage implements to solve the problem.
There are many options to fighting weeds available that don’t involve tillage or even chemicals if you’re willing to do some planning and change things up in your rotation. Longtime Pierre, S.D. farm manager Dan Forgey can attest to that, as crop rotation has added value to Cronin Farms and served as an important defensive tactic against weeds.
“We do a lot of cover crops and graze the cover crops,” says Forgey. “There is so much value in a diversified crop rotation — like 8 or 9 crop rotations, which makes it so we don’t have to use as many chemicals.”
Here are some additional tips shared recently by the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition for fighting weeds while keeping no-till systems intact:
- Use both warm- and cool-season crops and switch between a grass and a broadleaf to provide competition, such as including winter wheat after soybeans, says South Dakota State University Extension agronomy field specialist Sara Bauder.
- No-tillers should evaluate weed issues each year and choose herbicides carefully, says South Dakota State Extension weed specialist Gared Shaffer. Kochia, waterhemp, marestail, Palmer amaranth and common ragweed were pegged to be troublesome again this year. “Don’t use the same herbicides with the same sites of action all of the time,” he says. “The best thing to remember is tank mixing of multiple sites of action is always a beneficial management decision.”
- When referring to sites of action, Shaffer means specific location in or on the plant where the herbicide is attacking, or the chemical process in the plant that is being overwhelmed in order to kill it. Bauder notes multiple sites of actions in herbicides means using different chemical formulations throughout the growing season, or from one season to another.