Believe it or not, 2015 is here. And if you’re not quite sure what to include in your New Year’s resolutions this year, Utah State University agronomist Earl Creech and weed specialist Ralph Whitesides say improving weed management is a great place to start.
Weed infestation is one of the biggest problems in pastures and forage production, Creech says. Weeds can reduce the quality of a crop as well as the value of a pasture or rangeland. These unwanted plants compete with the existing forage species for water, soil and nutrients.
Without a plan of action or a systematic approach, weeds can be costly to your production and economically damaging, he says. To help you combat or prevent weed problems in 2015, Creech and Whitesides suggest implementing these five goals to improve your weed management:
Goal 1: I will plant certified weed-free seed
Make a goal to plant certified seed this year. This will help you get the genetics you are looking for that will perform well for the site you have. Certified seed also helps ensure crop seed is not contaminated with weed seed, so you don’t risk introducing new weeds onto your farm or ranch.
Goal 2: I will scout my fields
The first scouting needs to take place in the spring, just as alfalfa is breaking dormancy. This will help you determine if there was any winter damage to the crop and how many winter-annual weeds are present.
As you examine your fields for trouble areas, take note of the particular weed species present. It also helps to get a feel for the size of the weeds so you can decide what type of weed control measure to implement.
At this point, you can also assess the health of the stand to determine whether it should be taken out or whether it is worth saving. The next scouting can be done later in the season as you cut or bale the crop.
“It is not only important you check to see how your crop is doing, but check to see what your weeds are doing as well,” Whitesides says.
Goal 3: I will mark troubled areas
After scouting your fields, it is also important that you mark your troubled areas so you can return to them later on. Areas with poor stand or heavy weed infestation are often spotty and don’t encompass the entire field.
In the modern day, a lot of people mark these areas with a basic GPS unit, but for those of you that don’t consider yourselves “tech-savvy,” a simple construction cone will suffice. By marking these areas, it will help you implement correct measures and make it easier for you to check on progress as the season progresses.
Goal 4: I will evaluate equipment before harvest
It is essential that you take the time in the fall and winter months to assess and make any necessary repairs to your equipment before spring. Equipment for planting, harvest and pest management that is improperly calibrated or in poor condition can have an adverse effect on stand establishment and persistence and the effectiveness of weed control, fertilization and irrigation measures.
After the season is over, equipment should be cleaned and adjusted to prevent potential problems such as rust, rodents, broken parts and other possible hazards.
“Evaluating or tuning up the equipment is something that always seems to be put on the back burner,” Creech says. “Winter is a great time to do it.”
Goal 5: I will control weeds in the seedling year of a new establishment
When a new stand is established, it is important something is done to control weeds in the seedling year; failing to do so will decrease yields over the life of the stand. It is also important that you know the weed; you need to understand the weed’s life cycle and the potential problems it can bring.
Crop rotation – particularly the choice of crop and how it is managed – can be a critical time to address problematic weeds that are difficult to control in your forage crop.
So whether you already have a long list of New Year’s resolutions or you have a few left from the year before, adding these five goals to your operation will substantially improve your weed management in 2015.