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Control pasture weeds using fertilizer impregnation

The world of weed control in forage systems has seen some growth in the past decades. Where growers in row-crop systems have been patiently awaiting new products to hit the marketplace, forage producers have been blessed with new options. Along with the ability to consistently remove broadleaf weeds from pasture and hay fields comes the ability to apply those herbicides in cost-effective ways, such as dry fertilizer im­pregnation (DFI).

With DFI, a pasture weed-control product is coated onto dry fertilizer being applied to forage fields. The real advantage of this system is the herbicide’s residual control, which suppress espe­cially small or yet unemerged weeds. By allowing fertility and weed control to be applied simulta­neously, DFI can be a tremendous cost and time savings during a busy time of year for many of MFA’s diversified growers.

There are many advantages to this approach, but DFI still should be treated like any other weed-control system in forage production. Ex­pectations should be based on when the product is applied and how much coverage is attained. The best control will still be achieved with good coverage in a broadcast spray scenario. Control of emerged weeds using DFI is expected to achieve 60-70% of that of a well-timed broadcast appli­cation. The good news is that residual control of unemerged weeds is excellent.

Here are a few considerations when using weed control with DFI:

Coverage is king. MFA recommends at least 250 pounds per acre of dry product applied with herbicide. The more product applied, the more even distribution of the weed control active ingredient placement. Double spreading is also recommended to ensure good, even coverage.

Adjust timing. Optimal time for controlling summer annual weeds in pasture is later in the season than most grass fertilizer applications. On pasture, May is an ideal time to get the residual control in products such as GrazonNext HL or the newly released DuraCor for summer annuals. For good control on hay fields, timing should be closer to early April. These later-season applications generally influence production of more leafy matter in the grass stand, resulting in higher-quality forage. Weed identification is still critical when planning for application timing. Contact your local MFA for assistance with both weed ID and optimal timing for application.

When looking at fertilizer applications later in the season, think about the growth curves of cool-season grasses such as fescue. Nitrogen uptake is winding down by May or June, so an application would be a great chance to catch up on some P and K based on needs identified in soil samples.

Advance the system. With land costs continuing to be high, maximizing the acres you currently operate remains critical to the economics of profitable forage production. Weed control is a good first step. Continue to move your forage growth forward by address­ing fertility based on soil sample data, leaving residual forages to allow for faster regrowth, and diversifying your grass species to take advantage of hot, dry summers.

MFA is excited to be offering dry fertilizer impregnation at many of our locations this year. We think it’s an efficient way to manage weeds on acres that may have not had such control in the past. If you’re interested in pasture weed control this season, contact me or your local MFA for the product and system that will work best for you.

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