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Plan now for herbicide treatments

Farm Progress Herbicide being applied to field
PLAN, PLAN, PLAN: Supply chain issues have also hit the herbicide market, possibly forcing farmers to choose alternative products to handle weed control in their fields.
Supply chain issues plague common weed-fighting products.

Same song, different verse. Farmers may need to rethink their 2022 weed control program when it comes to the use of herbicides due to lingering supply chain issues.

Ryan Wolf, agronomy service manager with WinField United, said farmers may need to forgo their Plan A when considering alternatives, even down to Plan D. “There’s been a lot of issues as far as herbicide supply going into this year. People know about glyphosate and glufosinate, but it just tiers down into 2,4-D, acetochlor and paraquat,” he said. “All these things go hand in hand out there, so everyone is planning ahead.”

Wolf spoke at the Soy100 conference in March, presented by the South Dakota Soybean Association, the Soybean Checkoff, South Dakota State University Ag Experiment Station and SDSU Extension.

Next best may be gone

While alternatives may be available, Wolf warned that producers should be ready to act fast, because the best alternative may also be in short supply if a lot of producers make the switch.

“What we’re having in this industry right now is that we know glyphosate is short, so we go to the next best thing,” he said. “But guess what? The next best thing is short very, very fast. And then the next thing gets very short very fast. And then the next one, the next one, the next one.”

For example, Wolf said Gramozone [paraquat] is a “great burndown alternative. But guess what? People started thinking about that already last fall down South for winter wheat burndown, and that’s in very short supply.”

With the supply shortages that exist, Wolf suggested now is not the time for farmers to become brand loyal. “You might have an AI [active ingredient] in the shed, but it might not be the brand that you want out there, so you might not be able to be as brand loyal. Just get what you can get.”

Don’t cut rates

As a reaction to possible short supplies of herbicides, Wolf recommends farmers not reduce application rates to make the product go further.

“Do not cut back on a lot of chemistries,” he said. “There’s certain chemistries like glyphosate that maybe we can shave some rates here and there, and some guys are doing that. But know how to do it, and still know what weeds you’re going after, to see if it’s OK to do that kind of thing.

“A lot of guys are just using glyphosate for grass control so that you can reduce rates. But if you’re going after other weeds, or especially broadleaves that are bigger like lambsquarters or velvetleaf, you need to keep those rates up higher.”

Also, be aware that as herbicide companies put more “punch” into products, something has to come out. “With different formulations of products like glyphosate, the more AI they put in the jug, they have to take something out. So they take the surfactant load out,” he said. “So to increase control, you have to add surfactant per acre with these hydrophilic products.”

Start clean, stay clean

“Ultimately, at the end of the day it’s still about weed control and controlling those weeds upfront,” Wolf said.

A strong approach to weed control is to start clean and stay clean. “You have to put full rates of pre’s [preemergence] down to control weeds early. That’s going to help you in the long run because there’s not a lot of room for oopsies,” he said. “As far as supply side goes, we don’t have room to go back and respray glyphosate or glufosinate to clean things up. There’s just not enough supply to do that.”

With a tight supply and the window of availability closing, Wolf said “it might be too late [for this year], but still talk to your retailer, your trusted adviser out there. But you might be behind the eight ball already.”

Looking ahead

Supplies look as though they may be tight heading into next year as well, but Wolf advises against hoarding product this year to carry over.

“Start planning ahead right now, but we don’t want this industry hoarding,” he said. “Because when this stuff all does break loose, the last thing I want you to do is have $80 glyphosate in your shed when you can go buy it for $20. You don’t want that high-priced stuff in your shed. Just get what you need.”

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