Cracking the Code: Factors Shaping Herbicide Performance
- Herbicide selection
- The target weed species,
- Application timing
- Environmental considerations.
- How are you applying it?
- Environmental considerations.
- Herbicide resistance
- Turfgrass tolerance
- herbicide formulation and
- Planning ahead
Ways in which the target weeds impact herbicide performance:
Different weed species have varying levels of sensitivity to herbicides. Some weeds are susceptible to a particular herbicide, while others are more tolerant. For example, pigweed can be tolerant to 2,4-D compared to other broadleaf weeds.
Mode of action:
Some herbicides may target specific biological processes or enzymes that are unique to certain weed species. If the target weed species lacks the target site or mechanism of action, the herbicide may not work against that particular weed.
Dicamba is a broadleaf herbicide that primarily targets sensitive broadleaf weeds by disrupting the growth and development of plant tissues. However, oxalis may exhibit tolerance to dicamba, so you get poor control when you use this.
How well a herbicide works against a target weed is also a result of its growth stage. Certain herbicides are most effective when applied at specific stages of weed development.
For example, quinclorac works well vs juvenile and mature summer grass weed but not so well when it’s at the 2-4 tiller stage. So applying a herbicide at the wrong growth stage may result in poor results.
Glufosinate is another example. When you use this as a non-selective herbicide for broad-spectrum weed control, it works best on young, actively growing weeds.
The size of the target weed can also influence herbicide performance. Larger and more developed weeds tend to have thicker cuticles and extensive root systems. These affect herbicide absorption and translocation within the plant. Some herbicides may be less effective on larger weeds due to reduced uptake or limited movement within the plant.
Weed species that have developed resistance to specific herbicides pose a significant challenge.
Some examples of application timing impacting herbicide performance:
Weed growth stage:
Different herbicides are more effective at specific stages of weed growth. Timing the herbicide application when the target weeds are in their most susceptible growth stages can lead to better control. For example, some herbicides are more effective when applied to young, actively growing weeds, while others may be more effective on mature weeds. Applying herbicides too early or too late in the weed’s growth cycle can result in reduced efficacy.
Turfgrass Growth stage:
Certain herbicides may cause damage or stunting to turfgrass if you use them at the wrong time.
Environmental conditions at the time of herbicide application can also impact performance. Factors such as temperature, humidity, and rainfall can influence herbicide absorption, translocation, and degradation within the target weeds. Applying herbicides during unfavorable weather conditions, such as high temperatures, drought, or heavy rainfall, may result in reduced herbicide efficacy or potential off-target movement.
The size of the target weeds can affect herbicide performance. Some herbicides are more effective on small, actively growing weeds, while others may require larger weed sizes for optimal absorption and translocation within the plant. Applying herbicides too early when the weeds are too small may result in inadequate control, while applying them too late when the weeds are too large can reduce the herbicide’s effectiveness.
Some herbicides like MSMA or Poacure require multiple applications or follow-up treatments to achieve effective control. The timing of these repeat applications is critical. Herbicides often have specific intervals between applications to target weeds at different growth stages or to control emerging weeds.
Environmental conditions affecting herbicide performance:
Temperature has a big influence on herbicide performance as some herbicides require a specific temperature range for optimal performance. A great example of this is if you use diclofop methyl to control crowsfoot grass. The Destro label specifically states DO NOT apply if temperatures are above 25C. High temperatures speed up the breakdown rate of some herbicides, and so stop them from working as well. Conversely, low temperatures tend to slow down herbicide activity. This is the case with the sulfonylureas which includes Indigo Duke herbicide, Indigo Recondo herbicide and Bayer Tribute herbicide. When you use any herbicide, make sure it is within the recommended temperature range to get the best results.
Higher humidity helps herbicides stay on the plant surface longer, and so enhances absorption. This is especially important for foliar herbicides. During hot, humid conditions spray droplets evaporate slower. This means any spray takes longer to dry and so increases herbicide absorption.
Absorption and translocation of bentazone in turfgrass increases in humid conditions1Kudsk, P.; Kristensen, J. Effect of environmental factors on herbicide performance. In Proceedings of the First International Weed Control Congress, Melbourne, Australia, 17–21 February 1992; Weed Science Society of Victoria: Victoria, Australia, 1992; pp. 173–186. This is due to the cuticle being hydrated, which encourages herbicide absorption2Matzenbacher, F.O.; Vidal, R.A.; Merotto, A.; Trezzi, M.M. Environmental and physiological factors that affect the efficacy of herbicides that inhibit the enzyme protoporphyrinogen oxidase: A literature review. Planta Daninha 2014, 32, 457–463..
Hot, dry conditions have a greater impact on systemic herbicides than contact type products. However, excessively high humidity or prolonged periods of leaf wetness can lead to herbicide runoff or wash-off before uptake can occur. In hot and dry conditions the use of the right spray adjuvant and surfactant is even more important.
Adjuvants and surfactants aid herbicide uptake by enhancing spray droplet retention on the leaf surface, dissolving wax cuticles, and holding spray droplets on the leaf for longer by reducing the evaporation rate.
Rainfall or irrigation shortly after herbicide application can impact herbicide performance. Heavy rainfall or irrigation can cause herbicide runoff, dilution, or leaching, reducing the concentration of herbicide available for weed control.
- S-metalochlor present Pennmag (Syngenta) can quickly move out of a sandy soil profile after heavy rain, due to its relatively high solubility in comparison to pendimethalin.
Wind can affect the application of herbicides by affecting the spray pattern and distribution of herbicides. Strong winds can cause herbicide drift, leading to non target deposition of herbicide droplets or particles. Herbicide drift can result in damage to desirable plants, crops, or adjacent sensitive areas. That’s why you use drift control agents to reduce spray drift by increasing the size of spray droplets. These work by increasing the average droplet size and achieve this by binding with water molecules to form larger spray droplets
Soil conditions can have a big impact on herbicide performance. This is especially the case with soil-applied herbicides such as pre-emergent herbicides. Factors such as soil moisture, organic matter content, and pH can impact herbicide availability, absorption, and degradation in the soil. Additionally, soil texture and structure can affect herbicide movement.
- Foramsulfuron (Tribute Selective herbicide) efficacy on crows foot grass is greatest under conditions of high soil moisture and high evaporation, and may be reduced in sandy soils.
How turfgrass tolerance can impact herbicide efficacy:
Selective herbicides control specific weed species while minimizing damage to desirable turfgrass. Take for example the selectivity of the sulfonylurea herbicides vs warm season turf. This selectivity enables you to use many of these to remove turf type ryegrass from oversown sports grounds when you transition back to couch in the spring.
Herbicide labels often provide specific application rates for different turfgrass species or cultivars. These rates are a direct result of turfgrass tolerance and are the range of herbicide rates that will not cause turfgrass injury.
Recovery and regrowth:
Tolerant turfgrass has the ability to recover after herbicide application. Even if some injury occurs, tolerant turfgrass recovers and resumes normal growth.
Turfgrass tolerance to herbicides affects what you can use. Certain turfgrass species or cultivars may have higher tolerance to specific herbicides, allowing for more effective control of target weeds without causing significant damage to the turf. Understanding the tolerance of your turfgrass to different herbicides can help in selecting the most appropriate herbicide for your specific weed control needs. Examples of this are:
- Bispiribac sodium. There is a big difference between the tolerance of turf type perennial ryegrass cultivars.
- Oxadiazon. You can’t use this on Santa Anna couch but It is safe on all other hybrid couch varieties.
When should I apply my lawn pre emergent?
The best time to apply these products is in the early spring as this is before broadleaf weeds begin to grow. For grass weeds like summer grass apply later say in late spring or early summer. This weeds germinate later, so by applying your pre emergent later you will get longer control.
What is a turf herbicide?
Turf herbicides, also known as weedkillers are pesticides used to control and manage undesirable plants. It is important that when you use a turf herbicide that you precisely follow the label directions. If you don’t do this then the herbicide may fail to control the target weed, damage the turf grass or even prevent you from being able to reseed or re-turf damaged areas.
Turf herbicides can be:
- Selective or non selective. Selective turf herbicides are able to specifically target the weed without damaging the desirable turf grass. Non selective turf herbicides kill everything.
- Pre emergent or post emergent. Pre emergent turf herbicides prevent weeds from growing and becoming and are used before weeds grow. Post emergent kill weeds after they have emerged.
- Work against broadleaf weeds or grass weeds.
- 1Kudsk, P.; Kristensen, J. Effect of environmental factors on herbicide performance. In Proceedings of the First International Weed Control Congress, Melbourne, Australia, 17–21 February 1992; Weed Science Society of Victoria: Victoria, Australia, 1992; pp. 173–186
- 2Matzenbacher, F.O.; Vidal, R.A.; Merotto, A.; Trezzi, M.M. Environmental and physiological factors that affect the efficacy of herbicides that inhibit the enzyme protoporphyrinogen oxidase: A literature review. Planta Daninha 2014, 32, 457–463.
Graduated from Newcastle University with an Hons Degree in Soil Science in 1988, Jerry then worked for the Sports Turf Research Institute (STRI) as a turf agronomist before emigrating to Australia in 1993.
He followed this by gaining a Grad Dip in Business Management from UTS. He has worked in a number of management roles for companies as diverse as Samsung Australia, Arthur Yates and Paton Fertilizers.
He has always had a strong affinity with the Australian sports turf industry and as a result he established Gilba Solutions as an independent sports turf consultancy in 1993. Jerry has written over 100 articles and two books on a wide range of topics such as Turf Pesticides and Nutrition which have been published in Australia and overseas.