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Crop Competition Is Critical for Weed Control

Posted by jenna.osiensky | June 22, 2023

Contributed by Drew Lyon, Washington State University

In the hundreds of herbicide field studies I have conducted since I was a graduate student at the University of Nebraska in the 1980s, herbicides have always performed better in a good stand of a vigorously growing crop than in a poor crop stand. When the topic is weed control, we often focus on what herbicide or herbicides are the best option. Often lost in the discussion of weed control is the importance of growing a competitive crop.

The time and effort you put into establishing a competitive crop will be rewarded not only in final yield, but also possibly in lower herbicide costs or getting greater performance for the money you spend on herbicides. In Best Management Practices for Managing Herbicide Resistance (PNW754), there is a discussion on helping the crop “choke out” weeds. Practices discussed include the following:

  1. Prepare a firm, moist seedbed
  2. Seed at an optimum time for rapid germination and emergence
  3. Select competitive crop cultivars
  4. Use high-quality seed
  5. Use treated seed
  6. Use higher seeding rates
  7. Use narrowest feasible row spacing
  8. Seed on the shallow side of the recommended seeding depth
  9. Apply fertilizer to promote crop growth and competitiveness

These good crop husbandry practices are often not thought of as weed management practices, but nothing a grower does for managing weeds on the farm is more important than establishing a uniform stand of a vigorously growing crop. The crop must be planted, so why not invest a little more time and effort ensuring that the crop is as competitive as possible with weeds. You will be glad you did!

What crop establishment practices have you found to be most beneficial to establishing a competitive crop? Please share those with us and we will see if we can develop some specific practices suited to the Pacific Northwest.

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