Getting proactive with weed control

As the challenge of weed control grows, the need for proactive intervention grows, too

4 mins

Climate change’s impact on the horticulture industry intensifies daily. While discussions often center on drought and water scarcity, talk about increased weed pressures isn’t far behind. It’s no secret that weeds are obstacles to profitability for any growing operation—and with climate change, pressures have grown worse.

As the challenge of weed control grows, the need for proactive intervention grows, too. Weeds are moving into regions where they never grew before. And weeds and weed seeds that couldn’t survive winter now do.

The following are just a few reasons to get ahead of the game and beat weeds before they beat you:

  • First impressions – As ornamental plant and business branding gain importance, first impressions matter even more. Whether your plants are in the field or coming off trucks at job sites or retailers, their condition says a lot about your growing operation and you. Weedy plant material forces your customer’s hand: invest their labor to clean your plants—or move on to another supplier.
  • Plant health – Weeds in containers or production fields compete for the nutrients, water, and light your crop needs for peak performance and health. Weeds also harbor insect pests and diseases that put your crop at risk. Eliminating and preventing weeds—before they steal from your crop—optimizes your nutrient inputs, reduces the need for herbicides, and restores the growing advantage to your plants.
  • Seeds to weeds – Ignore weeds, and you and your customers will discover the seeds they left behind. And, with global warming, that “gift” may seriously exceed your expectations. By prioritizing weed control—from pre-emergent herbicides to hand weeding—you reclaim the upper hand. Preventing weed seed production and distribution is much easier than dealing with the consequences.
  • Labor challenges – We all know labor is tight, and good employees are stretched thin. Implementing a proactive weed control program can help you manage weeds more efficiently. That means your staff is free to do more than spend days pulling weeds out of pots. And if you think labor’s too tight to waste on weed management, think again. Poor weed control = lost sales.

These best practices for proactive weed control can help you suppress weed pressure and keep your growing operation clean:

  • Keep non-production areas weed-free – Eliminating perimeter weeds creates a protective barrier around production areas and helps stop weed invasions. Make mowing, weeding, and pre-emergent and post-emergent herbicide applications part of your routine program for non-production areas.
  • Keep ground cover free from holes and debris – Don’t let holes or debris create new spots for weed seed germination in or on your ground cover. Sweep your ground cover regularly. If holes or rips arise, apply granular pre-emergent to the opening. Patch your cover before placing container stock on top.
  • Get rid of “empty” containers in your fields – A media-holding container without a plant is an open invitation for weed seeds to move in—if they’re not already there. Take time to remove unproductive pots from fields or perimeter areas before seed-producing weed crops settle in.
  • Match herbicides to your target weeds – Identify problem weeds and choose herbicides accordingly. Make sure the product’s active ingredients control your target weeds, and the product is listed for your ornamental crops. To minimize the risk of herbicide resistance, rotate herbicides regularly.
  • Test and trial before you treatAlways test and trial new herbicide products on a small area or a small number of plants before wide-scale application. Even with label-listed crops and weeds, on-site tests and trials help avoid regrets over hasty treatment. Wondering about ICL product trials? Talk with your ICL territory manager.
  • Irrigate new containers before treatingGranular herbicides work best when your growing media has a relatively level surface. If you’re treating a new crop of containers with pre-emergent, irrigate with ½ to 1 inch of water to firm the surface before you treat.
  • Calibrate your equipmentSuccess with pre-emergent herbicides depends on correct rates. Applying too much herbicide wastes money and increases the potential for toxicity and environmental risks. Applying too little wastes time, money, and labor—and doesn’t kill weeds. Take time to calibrate and get rates right.
  • Follow label instructionsThe most important best practice is also the most often overlooked. Always read product labels thoroughly—before you treat—and follow instructions closely, including guidelines for pre- and post-application irrigation and application intervals. Need expert advice? Your ICL territory manager can help.

At ICL, we want to help you grow the best crops possible and advance your business as you do. That extends from premium plant nutrition to proactive plant protection with industry standards like OH2, and innovative Gemini granular and liquid pre-emergents to help you manage weeds effectively and efficiently. So give us a call. Let’s talk about how we can help you grow better, cleaner plants more sustainably.