What to Consider When You’re Selecting a Burndown or Pre-emergence Herbicide

Nick Seibert

08 May 2023

Now that spring is in full bloom and planting season is underway, early germinating weeds will be arriving soon. Starting clean is critical when your goal is maximizing production. Weed management programs need to be viewed as a season-long project with clear goals in mind. With the proper management program in place, you’ll be able to identify the best burndown herbicides for corn and soybeans. 

Weed Management Goals

Your weed management goals may include early springtime cultivation, rolling certain cover crops and/or a herbicide application to achieve a clean seed bed. If cultivation is not possible (no-till system, highly erodible soil, arid regions), then a burndown and pre-emergence herbicide application may be a great alternative.

Keep in mind that burndown and pre-emergence herbicide applications are only one step in the war on weeds. Starting with a clean field, early competition can be minimized allowing for the crop to get off to a good start. Spring burndown, post-emerge applications, fall burndown and in-season tillage also need to be considered in your overall weed management program.

Actively growing weeds that are not stressed from drought, excessive moisture or cold temperatures are typically the easiest weeds to manage. Stress conditions can cause the weed to shut down making it very difficult to manage, and this tends to be true for all application timings throughout the growing season.

Pros and Cons of the Burndown Herbicides You Choose

When considering burndown chemicals and pre-emergence products, you must understand the pros and cons of the herbicide, such as preplant interval, crop rotation and rain fast.

Understanding the application rates of the burndown herbicide along with any adjuvants that will be added will give you the best chance at managing early weed pressure—adjuvants can increase the efficiency of herbicides, but unfortunately not all adjuvants are created equally, and quality matters.

You must ensure that the adjuvant that you are adding to the herbicide mix is compatible by doing a small sample jar compatibility test. Always read and follow label directions for all herbicides and adjuvant mixtures.

[RELATED: Tips for Your Herbicide Mixing Order]

Keep Modes of Action Top of Mind

Mode of Action (MOA) must be considered as well when selecting your burndown and pre-emergence herbicide program. Limit the use of the same MOA season after season. The more MOA used the better chances you will have at limiting the development of weed resistance. It is everyone's responsibility to limit the development of resistant weeds.

When selecting MOA, your ultimate goal should be developing a weed management program that accounts for:

  • Early removal of weeds

  • Longer lasting residual controls

  • Documented regionalized weed resistance and weed types

Know Your Burndown Herbicide Products and Their Restrictions

There are numerous products on the market that can be used as burndown and pre-emergence products. Some products may apply a planting delay limit, which may range from multiple days to multiple weeks. Other herbicides have restrictions on crop rotation. This can be an important consideration if you have to change crop rotation in the same year. For example, if excessive rain forces you to change from planting corn to soybeans, an unknown restriction from a corn herbicide may not allow soybeans to be planted.

The following is a small sample of products that may be applied as a burndown and/or pre-emergent herbicide in your corn and soybean weed management program.

Scout your fields early so you know the growth stage and types of weeds, and you don’t apply the wrong products or miss the prime application window.

And remember, always read and follow label directions for all herbicides and adjuvant mixtures.

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Nick Seibert

08 May 2023