Cotton Links


Fall Burndown Goal:
A ‘Clean Spring’

As cotton farmers close their 2008 production cycle, many are looking at ways to make the unpredictability of farming a bit more manageable in 2009.

Erratic commodity prices have caused some farmers to rethink next year’s crop plans entirely and others to adopt a “wait-and-see” mentality until spring.

Additionally, farmers affected by this spring’s heavy rainfall and flooding understand the best laid crop plans can change in the course of a few days or weeks, fluctuating with the shifts in March and April weather.

With all this unpredictability facing the industry, experts strongly encourage farmers to think today about ways to better manage tomorrow’s planting season – namely through a well-planned late fall or early spring herbicide program.

Apply Now, Benefit Later

In recent years, increasing numbers of cotton farmers have seen the overall benefits of a “clean spring” from their late fall herbicide applications.

“If a farmer can put down a residual in the fall, he will be money ahead come spring in terms of additional control needed for those winter months,” says Larry Steckel, Tennessee Extension weed scientist.

Steckel says a typical fall or spring weed control program will incorporate three-way tankmixes of glyphosate plus either Dicamba or 2,4-D and a long-lasting residual herbicide such as Envoke or Valor. This combination controls new growth throughout the fall and winter before the weed’s root system can become established, generally resulting in an overall cleaner seed bed in the spring.

Beyond pure weed control, however, researchers also believe fall-applied herbicides create a less hospitable environment for such overwintering pests as soybean cyst nematode and cutworms.

“Spring has always been busy and unpredictable,” says Darrin Dodds, Mississippi Extension cotton specialist. “Anything a farmer can do to get a jump on next year’s pest populations is always valuable.”

This year some farmers experienced the benefits of planning ahead when springtime weather caused issues for traditional burndown-only herbicide programs.

Prepare For The Unknown

When prices fluctuate or weather does not cooperate, many farmers are forced to adjust crop plans and spring herbicide programs quickly to meet the changing game plan.

As a result, researchers say a herbicide’s rotational flexibility, including any plantback restrictions, is an even more important consideration in an unsure environment. With more Mid- South and southern acres shifting to corn, soybeans and wheat, farmers should understand the herbicides they use in burndown applications.

“Flexibility is definitely something farmers should be thinking about for their program,” Steckel says.

In addition to soybeans and cotton, Valor was recently approved for use 14 days prior to no-till or minimum-till field corn – making it an even more flexible tool for farmers uncertain of next spring’s crop plan.

The Resistance Factor

Regardless of shifting crop plans, resistant weeds are unrelenting in their presence in cotton fields throughout the South.

Both Steckel and Dodds agree a good herbicide rotation strategy, complete with residuals, goes a long way toward establishing a sound overall weed management program.

“If a farmer is having problems with a particular weed in a field, especially marestail, I just automatically assume it’s resistant and start recommending a mix of glyphosate and Valor or Envoke,” Dodds says.

Steckel adds that addressing tough weeds before they become established should be a central component of any weed control strategy.

Archer-Malmo, which represents Valent, provided information for this article.

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