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Weed Control and Resistance

How to combat resistant weeds

Have you had problems where your go-to product for weed control just seemed to stop working? You're not alone. Herbicide resistance continues to frustrate farmers across the Southeast. With our long growing season and mild winters, controlling weeds requires special attention. But what causes weed resistance, and how should growers control weeds if their standard herbicide fails?

Why resistance happens

We caught up with Southern States Agronomist Kevin Campbell to get his take on resistant weeds. "Applying the same weed control practices again and again can cause resistance," Campbell explains. "The survival instinct of the plant kicks in, and they try to get around the chemicals."

In addition, a small percentage of the weeds will be unaffected by chemical applications. Using the same product repeatedly allows those resistant weeds to grow and thrive, taking over the entire weed population in an area and making it entirely resistant. 

How to prevent resistance and control weeds

Changing things up a little bit can make all the difference in weed control and preventing herbicide resistance. Campbell advises growers on a few things they can do on their farms to help with weed problems:

  1. Use the recommended rate of the chemical. When money gets tight, growers can fall into the bad habit of using less than the recommended rate of herbicides to save money. "Unfortunately," Campbell says, "this accelerates resistance in weeds, as a plant that was borderline resistant can become fully resistant after a lower chemical dosage."
  2. Get to the weeds when they are small. "Not only are small weeds easier to kill with herbicide, but they have not matured enough yet to produce seeds," Campbell explains. Getting to the weeds when they are small means scouting the fields early and regularly. 
  3. Change your mode of action. Growers should alternate the chemical composition of the herbicides they use so that weeds cannot build up a resistance to them. Manufacturers offer many different types of products to choose from: some with two modes of action included.
  4. Rotate your crops. Not only does crop rotation help keep weeds down because of certain crops’ natural ability to outcompete certain weeds, it allows for a wider selection of herbicides that you can use on other crops rotated into your program. "In addition, rotating in cover crops helps keep weeds at bay by shading out the sunlight so that weeds cannot germinate," says Campbell.
  5. Maintain a healthy crop. A thriving, healthy field does not give weeds enough room to grow. "With the right pH and fertility program, a hearty crop will do a better job of shading weeds out," says Campbell.

For more information on weed control and resistance, please consult with your Southern States Agronomy professional or local extension agent.

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