Problem weeds could make inroads next year

Herbicide resistance is spreading and intensifying, so scouting is a concern now

The 2020 growing season looks great — for weeds.

For farmers, it’s going to be a challenge, with the terrible harvesting conditions stopping much weed control and prevention.

“A lot of fall work … didn’t happen,” Ian Epp, a Canola Council of Canada weed specialist, said during the Canola Discovery Forum.

“We’ve had a number of challenging harvests. Volunteer management is tough.”

Wet and cold weather pushed harvest deep in the autumn, with little time to get fields cleaned up afterward.

Many canola crops still lie out on fields, likely shelling out canola seed.

And the bad conditions in much of Western Canada during the growing season left patchy crops that often weren’t competitive with weeds.

For canola growers, the coming year will be important for volunteer control.

“The non-canola years are just as important as the canola years,” Epp told his audience, which mostly comprised agronomists who advise farmers.

Most weed management advice isn’t new, he acknowledged. Scouting early and often remains important. Spotting resistance remains a key concern.

Spraying early has for decades been known to be important.

And volunteer control is nothing new.

But that doesn’t mean things haven’t changed, Epp said. Herbicide resistance is spreading and intensifying, so scouting and prompt chemical control is a bigger concern than before.

Markets and consumers are getting more concerned about herbicide residue, so applying products correctly has become more important.

And with many chemical controls becoming cheaper, some products are making it into tank mixes more often.

It means both weed pressure and weed management concerns are growing.

Farmers sometimes worry less about weed management in canola than their other crops because “canola’s my easy crop,” Epp said, summing up a common attitude.

But that ease is not something to take for granted.

“Maybe weed control is not too hard in canola right now, but I think for a while now the writing’s been on the wall that it’s going to get a lot more challenging,” said Epp.

It’s possible 2020 might give farmers a sneak peek of that reality.

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