KEEPING WEEDS IN CHECK Don’t Miss the Forest for the Trees By Whitetail Institute Staff t’s often said that death and taxes are the only certainties in life. We hunters and managers, though, know that there’s a third certainty: No matter how well we prepare our seedbeds, and plant and maintain our food plots, grasses and other weeds are going to show up in them at some point. When that happens, knowing how to deal with them can be confusing if you only focus on a particular method (a tree) instead of following an integrated approach (the forest). This article will hopefully clear up some of that confusion. To get the most out of this article, you’ll first need to have a good, general understanding of a few preliminary matters:
Preliminary Understandings What is a weed? Scientists use the term weed when describing any plant that’s growing where it’s not wanted. In this article,
we’ll use the same term when describing grasses and other weeds generally. When discussing specific general types of weeds, we’ll use common references such as grass for weeds that look like grass, woody weeds for weeds like briars that have a woody, hard stem, and broadleaf weeds as a catchall for most other types.
Weed Control Methods Cultural Weed Control: Any practice that enhances crop growth and uniformity is called cultural weed control. Examples including ensuring that soil pH and nutrient levels are, and remain, optimum for the forage to be grown on the site. “Uniform crop growth is the single most powerful form of weed control in any cropping system, including food plots.” — W. Carroll Johnson, III, Ph.D “Physical” or “Mechanical” Weed Control: Physically removing or destroying a weed or its seeds, rhizomes or roots. Examples include repeated ground tillage before planting, and periodically mowing perennials in the spring and summer. “Chemical” Weed Control: Herbicides. For our purposes, there are two kinds of herbicides: non-selective and selective. Non-selective herbicides don’t discriminate between forage plants and weeds. Instead, they can kill or damage any plants they enter. Non-selective herbicides include glyphosate, the active ingredient found in many Roundup brand herbicides and generic equivalents. Selective herbicides, such as the Whitetail Institute’s Arrest and Slay, kill or damage some plants without harming others when used as directed — and be sure to use them as directed. Otherwise, you can get no activity
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from the herbicide, or worse, kill or damage your forage plants. So remember: Before using any herbicide, consult the herbicide label. The herbicide label is the only official source of correct information there is. (A detailed article about herbicides is available at this link: http://www.whitetailinstitute.com/news/ind ex.php?topic=753.0.) Integrated Weed Management: An approach to weed control that incorporates cultural, physical and chemical weed-control methods to the extent appropriate for the forage.
The Forest (Goal): Healthy, Vigorously Growing Forage In his article, “Integrated Weed Management” (available on-line at the Whitetail News Archives link at www.whitetailinstitute.com), Dr. Carroll Johnson explains that physical, cultural and chemical weed control methods should be considered a three-legged stool. When it comes to things that will help keep grasses and other weeds from negatively impacting the quality of your food plots, nothing is more important than making sure your forage plants are healthy and growing vigorously. Making sure your forage plants produce as they should throughout their intended life isn’t hard. You just need to be sure you know what the steps are, and then follow them. For purposes of this article, we’ll group the steps into two categories: seedbed preparation and forage maintenance.
Seedbed Preparation Cultural Weed Control Steps: Select the correct forage for each site: Different forage-plant types grow better in certain soil and slope conditions than others. Let’s use as examples Imperial Whitetail
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Whitetail News Volume 22.3