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Waterhemp is a pigweed that's moved into the Red River Valley from the south. It germinates a little later than lambsquarter, kochia and the more common redroot pigweed. It germinates and emerges about May 15 in a normal year in the southern Red River Valley and west central Minnesota.
Waterhemp plants are sometimes glyphosate-resistant and sometimes not. Each surviving plant can produce thousands of seed. Peters uses glyphosate for other weeds and for non-resistant waterhemp, but "you have to plan for the resistant population," he says.
Where waterhemp is "the primary concern," Peters wants farmers to consider "staging" their planting. Within reason, that means rather than planting everything and then going back and applying herbicides, the farmer plants a field, immediately applies pre-emergence weed control, then repeats elsewhere.
"I'm afraid that if we plant everything and then focus on the herbicide application later on, I'm afraid we'll get to the same place — caught in between where weeds start to germinate and emerge before we have activated product," Peters says.
Interviewed at his NDSU office on April 11, Peters noted that was the date farmers could plant sugar beets in North Dakota and be eligible for full crop insurance indemnities and the date many farmers had planted beets the year before.
"I will be surprised if we have many acres seeded at all during the month of April," he says.
WEEDS WON'T WAIT
"Our strategy in sugar beet has been to allow the sugar beet to get to the two-leaf stage before we make our herbicide application," Peters says. If sugar beets were planted in the normal April 15 time frame, the two-leaf stage is about May 5 to May 10. That's not going to happen this year.
"Sugar beets aren't the right growth stage, but waterhemp is still going to germinate and emerge at the same time. Because of that, we have to change our plan."
"The bottom line is that farmers need to use a pre-emergence herbicide," Peters says. For beets there are three or four options to consider, ranging from products incorporated into the soil to products applied to the soil at planting time and activated by rain.
Peters says 35 percent of growers attending sugar beet grower seminars in January and February said waterhemp is "their most important production challenge. It keeps creeping up," both in percentage and distance north, Peters says. "I get a lot of questions in the Grand Forks, N.D., and Crookston, Minn., area."
Waterhemp bedevils every acre in Southern Minnesota Beet Sugar Cooperative country at Renville, Minn., and every acre at Minn-Dak Farmers Cooperative in Wahpeton, N.D. It's also in an area from Ada, Minn., to Hillsboro, N.D., and southward in the American Crystal Sugar Co., area of Moorhead, Minn.
"One hundred percent of the farmers are using this concept we call 'lay-by,' where they apply a soil-applied herbicide that is post-emergence to sugar beet and pre-emergence to waterhemp" weeds, Peters says. Roughly half of the sugar beet farmers in waterhemp areas use a pre-emergent herbicide — applied immediately after planting, before the beets emerge.
It doesn't matter if a farmer is growing sugar beets, soybeans or corn, Peters says:
"Waterhemp doesn't care. It's going to germinate at the same time. The mindset for the corn grower is, 'I'm going to use a pre-emergence herbicide.' The mindset for the soybean grower is a combination of both. Some see the value of pre-emergence herbicides. I would guess the majority do not and don't use a pre-emergence product at all."
He says the introduction of dicamba-tolerant soybean seeds created an impression that post-emergent weed control would continue to be viable. However, Peters says the pre-emergence program is actually more consistently reliable.
Peters would argue that farmers need to use a pre-emergence herbicide in soybeans as well in 2018 because of the late spring.
"The same logic that applies to sugar beets applies to soybeans as well," he says.
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North Dakota State University and University of Minnesota Extension Sugarbeet Agronomist, Tom Peters, says waterhemp continues to move north. “Our surveys indicate that waterhemp is the most important weed for farmers south of Fargo/Moorhead,” said Peters. “Beyond that, it depends where you are located. Kochia is important, common ragweed is important, and lambsquarters can be an important weed especially under dry years. But beyond that, I have Palmer amaranth on my list as well.”
Glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto Co's Roundup herbicide, should not be classified as a substance causing cancer, the European Chemical Agency concluded on Wednesday, potentially paving the way for its license renewal in the EU.