Would You Rather....?? By Eric Yoder
Would you rather have a field full of waterhemp OR rye grass? Let me explain. During the past 15-20 years, we continue to see less tillage and more herbicide use. However, I’m afraid if we rely solely on herbicides alone to counteract reduced tillage, we are headed for trouble like running out of chemistries to use or increased weed resistance.
The days of conventional tilling and planting into clean fields are gone for many growers. Strip and no-till are now the norm for a lot of folks. Since the early 2000s, USDA data shows increases in mulch and no-till in almost all 4 major crops. The benefits of reduced tillage are plentiful including increased soil health, better water penetration, reduced erosion, and the list goes on. Although less tillage translates into a need for other methods to help control weeds.
When the first glyphosate tolerant soybeans hit the market in 1996, everything changed for growers. We entered a new realm of weed control. As growers embraced the new technology, herbicide usage fell the following several years, but was focused heavily on one chemical alone: glyphosate. Fast forward to today where herbicide use is up some 40% since 2002 and we have 165 herbicide resistant weeds across many modes of action. The picture looks quite different. But what can be done to help relieve some of the pressure being put on herbicides?
It’s the perfect fit for cover crops! First, the cover crop can help protect fields from winter annuals by growing in the off season, maybe even reducing the need for a traditional burndown. Secondly, the biomass can act as a residual herbicide for 2-3 weeks after planting. Can you imagine a 90% boost in Palmer Amaranth suppression without even touching your sprayer? It can and does happen leaving behind a much smaller need for weed control from your herbicide program. Third, cover crops can also help reduce the weed seed bank in the long run. Finally, cover crops can boost soil health, ecology, organic matter, water use, and I could keep going.
I personally would rather have ryegrass covering my family farm instead of an unknown population of nasty, possibly resistant, weeds. Are there tricks and tips for integrating cover crops into your operation? Most definitely, ProHarvest is here to help. We have the people, products, and know-how to make cover crops a success for you!