Winter Annual Weed Control in Alfalfa

As warmer weather approaches, start thinking about controlling winter annual weeds.
Winter Annual Weed Control in Alfalfa - Articles
Winter Annual Weed Control in Alfalfa

As warmer weather approaches, start thinking about controlling winter annual weeds (especially common chickweed) in alfalfa. Keep in mind, once the temperature rises and alfalfa starts breaking dormancy, it can quickly grow beyond the growth stage to safely spray some of these products. In most cases, 2-inches of alfalfa regrowth is the maximum height listed. Spraying beyond this stage may cause stand and/or yield reductions. Keep in mind all of these herbicides are labeled for use in pure-stand alfalfa. However, only metribuzin and Pursuit can be applied to established alfalfa-grass mixes. Here are a few guidelines about available products:

Your best bet when controlling…

  • Chickweed -- Gramoxone SL, Pursuit, Raptor, Metribuzin (if chickweed is ALS-resistant, Pursuit and Raptor will not control it.)
  • Annual bluegrass -- Gramoxone SL
  • Henbit/deadnettle -- Gramoxone SL, Metribuzin
  • Yellow rocket -- Pursuit, Raptor, Metribuzin

Gramoxone SL 2L (paraquat)

May be applied at 1 to 2 pt/A to established "dormant" stands before 2 inches of spring regrowth. The weeds must be actively growing at the time of application. Gramoxone is also labeled at 1 to 2 pt/A for dormant application on new fall seeded stands. 1 pt/A can be applied between cuttings but no more than 5 days after harvest and before 2" of regrowth. Gramoxone will desiccate any green tissue including actively growing alfalfa and possibly cause stand and/or yield reductions. However, if chickweed infestations are thick, this may be a necessary option to help suppress it. Be especially cautious with new fall seedings. Do not tank-mix with metribuzin on newly seeded (less than 1-year old) alfalfa. Gramoxone is effective on low to moderate infestations of winter annuals including chickweed, henbit, deadnettle, and mustard species. Do not use on mixed stands.

Pursuit 70DG (imazethapyr)

Pursuit may be used for weed control in seedling (2 trifoliates or larger) or established alfalfa. Apply Pursuit at 1.08 to 2.16 oz/A plus adjuvants to actively growing weeds 1 to 3 inches in height. Pursuit performance improves with warmer temperatures. If spraying during extended cold periods, expect weeds to respond slower or the herbicide can have reduced activity. Pursuit is effective on many winter annual broadleaves including small chickweed. Pursuit may be used on established alfalfa-grass mixtures.

Raptor 1AS (imazamox)

Raptor may be used for weed control in seedling or established alfalfa. Apply Raptor at 4 to 6 fl oz/A plus adjuvants to small, actively growing weeds and to established alfalfa in the fall or in the spring. Any application should be made before significant alfalfa growth or regrowth (3 inches) to allow Raptor to reach the target weeds. Like Pursuit, Raptor performance is influenced by temperature. Therefore, try to apply the herbicide on warmer days and when weeds are actively growing. Raptor has a similar spectrum of winter annual weed control as Pursuit. Do not use on mixed stands.

Metribuzin 75DF (Dimetric, Glory, TriCor)

May be used on established alfalfa. Apply 0.5 to 1 lb/A before spring regrowth. Impregnation on dry fertilizer can improve crop safety and allow for slightly later applications (up to 3 inches spring regrowth). Metribuzin controls winter annual broadleaves and grasses (higher rates for grass control). May be used on mixed alfalfa-grass stands. Higher rates can potentially cause a reduction in grass stand.

Prowl H2O 3.8L (pendimethalin)

Prowl H2O provides 1 to 2 months of residual control of many summer annual grasses and some annual broadleaf weeds as they germinate. It is typically not as effective on winter annual weeds such as annual bluegrass, chickweed, and mustards. It will not control any weeds that have already emerged at the time of application. Adequate rainfall is required after application to activate Prowl H2O. Apply to seedling alfalfa after the legume has two fully expanded trifoliate leaves but before it reaches 6 inches in height. Established alfalfa is defined by the label as alfalfa planted in the fall or spring which has gone through a first cutting/mowing. Apply to established alfalfa before weed emergence. Applications can be made in the fall after the last cutting, during winter dormancy, in the spring, or between cuttings. Applications should be made prior to the alfalfa reaching 6 inches in regrowth. Some stunting and yellowing of the alfalfa may occur with post applications.

As a side note: Prowl H2O will soon be labeled for use in cool-season grass forages (hay or pasture) either in pure-stand or mixed with alfalfa. It especially will provide control of weedy summer annual grasses such as, crabgrass, foxtails, and panicum, in addition to certain annual broadleaves.