Farmers look for answers on hard-to-control weeds

Farmer Dale Nielson of Chapman attends Merrick County Ag Day (NTV News)

A pesky weed called palmer amaranth only seems to be getting worse on farms across the Cornhusker State.

“It's very scary,” said Dale Nielson of Chapman.

He came to the Merrick County Ag Day looking for answers to control herbicide-resistant weeds.

“It’s the worst I've ever seen, for us,” he said.

Enemy number one is palmer amaranth. Scientists say there are no easy solutions for this prolific weed.

Extension Educator Jenny Rees said, “We need to look at weed control differently. Need to be using burndowns, pre with residual, post with residual, especially when we're talking soybeans.”

Outside of the controversial herbicide dicamba, one thing that seems to have some effect is tilling the soil.

Rees points to research showing palmer seeds buried four inches deep for three years, will cause 80 percent not to germinate.

But many Nebraska farmers gave up tillage years ago, as an effort to prevent erosion and encourage more biological activity.

Some growers may want to weigh soil health benefits, against weed control benefits.

“And I'm not saying no-till guys have to go to tillage, it may be something that a one-time thing for palmer control, for example,” Rees said.

That’s something Dale Nielson took note of.

“I hate to say it, I'm not an organic fan but I'm starting to see where organic farmers look like their weeds are more under control with more tillage than we are with our minimum till,” he said.

Cover crops may be another tool to help suppress weeds, but experts emphasize it's a whole systems approach.

Rees said, “You need to look at this not one year, what you did last year, what you're doing this year, and what you're doing next year in terms of what crops you're going to plant, what are the products you used, modes of action.”

And the herbicide dicmaba now being tightly regulated by the EPA. The University of Nebraska is putting on workshops across the state to allow farmers to be able to use it.

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