Jan 10, 2019

Weed Control 101

Timing and persistence can make all the difference in keeping alien plants out of your food plot for good

By Steve Jordan 

Weeds rob nutrients from the soil that your crop could be getting. These nutrients make your crop healthier and tastier. The healthier the plant, the more sought after it will be for the deer. 

Right on time

The timing of planting is a big factor for working on weed control. If you are planting Round-up ready corn or soybeans, you can plant them as soon as the soil warms up in the spring. I usually keep an eye on my local farmers. When they start planting in the spring, then I start planting.

This past growing season of 2018 we had an invasive Round-up resistant weed that grew taller than the soybeans and competed with the height of the corn. This weed is the “waterhemp,” which I’ll discuss more later.

So back to the timing of your planting. If you're not going to plant soybeans and corn that are Round-up ready, then you should work on weed control first before planting these crops. As soon as you can get on your food plot in the spring you should work it up and then culti-pack it. Culti-packing encourages all seeds to germinate quickly by uniformly creating excellent germinating conditions. The plot should green up with weeds in a week or two.

After that I would work it up again and then compact it. This should encourage another batch of weed seeds to germinate. After two or three series of this you should be ready to plant your crop.

I like to have my corn and early soybeans and some of the early sunflowers planted by the second week of June here in central Wisconsin. I do like to also stagger my sunflowers with a later planting on the Fourth of July weekend.

Your fall crops like your turnip mixes, wheat, rye, radishes and the like should be planted in mid-July to mid-August. If you work on weed control in the spring until planting time you should have little competition from the weeds. If you don't want to let the plot sit idle until mid-July or later, you can plant Round-up ready soybeans in that plot and keep it sprayed when weeds start showing up. When planting time arrives for your late season crop, you can work up and plant part of it or all of it depending on the condition of the early crop at that time of year.

Another reason other than weed control for planting your fall mixes no earlier than mid-July is the maturity dates of the mixes. Most varieties in the turnip family mature in 45 days or less. In the late summer and fall, plants usually grow slower than they do in the spring and early summer.

Come fall, most plants on the landscape are mature, brown, tough – and other than some of their seed clusters – these plants are fairly undesirable. Your fall mix should be young, tasty and green well into the fall and early winter. Some varieties in the fall mixes are very frost resistant. Some of the plants can withstand a deep freeze. 

Patience in weed control

Getting back to weed control, annual weeds and perennial weeds can be controlled over time. If you keep after them, annual weeds should never have an opportunity to seed out, therefore practically eliminating those varieties from your food plot eventually. Yes, you are still going to get some windblown weed seeds in your plot each year. You may also track some weed seeds on your tires from one area to another. You may even get a batch of new weed seeds inadvertently packaged with your food plot seeds.

This past year, we had a very abundant and stubborn weed in our food plots. For the first time since 1986 I was considering working up and destroying my early soybean plots. The waterhemp weed seemed to just show up and take over uniformly in all of the plots. It is Round-up resistant, so in the alfalfa plot, I just kept it mowed whenever the hemp tried to seed out.

The corn seemed to shade it out pretty well except for the edges of the field. We just pulled the hemp weeds on the edges. It looked to be an overwhelming project to pull the weeds from the soybeans. My wife and three grandsons – ages 12, 10 and 8 – talked me into pulling them and we did it. Luckily this plant is tall and easy to pull out.

Next year I plan to broadcast my soybean seeds into 3-foot wide rows while leaving 12 feet between the rows in which I can keep the soil worked up and weed free until mid-July or after when my fall plot can be planted. The 3-foot wide soybean rows at 200 yards long should make for an easy weeding project. 

Waterhemp basics

The waterhemp weed is basically chemical resistant. Round-up won't touch it, and most pre-emergent products have not worked consistently. This weed showed up in Missouri about 15 years ago and spread to many states. My travels this summer showed waterhemp practically everywhere from central Wisconsin through Minnesota and into North Dakota.

One hemp plant can produce over 1 million seeds! These seeds are tiny and can go air born for miles. They are easily tracked all around your land by equipment tires. These little seeds can survive up to 10 years waiting for the right conditions to germinate.

I am sure the agricultural community will come up with some type of chemical or practice that will knock this weed down without killing the soybeans or corn. In the meantime, the practices I discussed will be implemented this coming year.

I pride myself on clean, well-fertilized and practically weed-free food plots. Sometimes you have to just change things up a bit. Mother nature keeps us on our toes at times.

Have a great winter. Spring is just around the corner.


Steve Jordan's passion is planting food plots for wildlife. He likes to help others with their food plots and enjoys training them on how to attract wildlife to their properties. Steve and his wife, Kim, both enjoy hunting a variety of game on their own property near New London and sharing their love of the outdoors with their grandsons. They also go to Colorado each fall to hunt elk or mule deer, and can help you book a hunt of a lifetime with this outfitter. If you have questions on food plots, contact Steve or Kim at skjordan1010@gmail.com.