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The Ins and Outs of Herbicides: What makes them tick?

By Alison Fransoo, PAg, Crops Extension Specialist, North Battleford

March 2021

banding damage seedling
White or yellow banding seen in
cereals due to cold or saturated soils.

As the weather starts to warm up and cropping plans are being finalized, questions arise about crop protection products. What influences their performance and what could we see in the field? Our specialists can help provide information on herbicide actives, modes of action and how to recognize signs of injury or effects of environmental conditions.

When plant injury occurs, there can be confusion between herbicide modes of action and environmental factors that can mimic similar herbicide symptoms (i.e. yellowing at the growing points). When out in the field looking at herbicide outcomes, always remember to take into consideration other details that may produce similar affects you observe and know how to differentiate them by collecting all possible information. Factors causing similar effects include:

  • Adjuvant burn
  • Extreme conditions such as drought or heavy moisture
  • Weather conditions such as near frost, high temperature or hail
  • Genetic albinism (lack of pigment)
  • Genetic kinking
  • Nutritional deficiency such as nitrogen or sulphur
N deficiency seedling
Flax showing symptoms from saturated soils.

Clark Brenzil, Provincial Weed Specialist, recently did a webinar on the ins and outs of herbicides.  His presentation provided great tips to help reduce confusion. Movement in the plant, selectivity, how they work, and what can be seen in the field were all covered. A recording of this webinar, along with others we’ve hosted, are available on the webinar page.

Brenzil reviewed herbicide groups, modes of action and different actives. He summarized the symptoms in grasses versus broadleaves and where to look, possible injuries that may occur, along with current products available today. It is surprising how many products have the same active ingredient in a different wrapper.

Producers who have any questions about herbicides can contact their local crops extension specialist or the Agriculture Knowledge Centre at 1-866-457-2377.

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