Weed control is a critical element in successful food plot management because weeds severely curtail the forage production of your food plot product, and might eventually choke it out entirely. Believe me, treating unwanted weeds with herbicides is much cheaper than reworking and replanting food plots. Typically, sufficient herbicide treatment of a food plot runs between $15-$50 per acre.
While the use of herbicides is a complex subject, which varies based on type of soil, weeds, seed variety and other factors, I’m going to share information that will put you on the right track to controlling the unwanted weeds in your wildlife food plots.
Roundup To The Rescue
Depending on what’s being planted, food plots can be established during spring or fall. In either case, it’s likely weeds will be present, so your first job is to get rid of them. This is where Roundup (primary ingredient is glyphosate) or a comparable product comes into play. I’m using Roundup as an example because it’s a familiar name, a good product and environmentally friendly. Cost is approximately $30 per gallon, with the price increasing as the percent of glyphosate increases. You can save a little money by using a generic brand, but keep in mind that because some herbicides contain less of a weed killer than other brand names, the cheapest price might not necessarily be the best deal in the long run. Compare labels.
Herbicides can be purchased from a variety of sources, such as online retailers and local stores. A farm cooperative that sells to farmers is another great place to buy herbicides because coop employees can give you valuable advice as well. A farmer friend of mine sells a few gallons of Roundup to me at his cost, a good deal because he buys in huge volume.
Before Roundup is used, weed height should be checked. If the grass and broadleaf plants are too high (8 or more inches), then the plot should be mowed first. Roundup works best when plants are no higher than 6-8 inches and growing vigorously, so after mowing it’s best to wait a few days before spraying.
Next, check your plot size. You need to apply only the amount of herbicide recommended, so accurate plot size is critical. For example, let’s assume you have an abundance of grass in your plot that requires a quart of Roundup per acre. It’s obvious none of us has a sprayer that’s fine-tuned enough to evenly spread 1 quart of herbicide over 1 acre, so the manufacturer will recommend their product be mixed with water in a certain ratio, such as 2 percent herbicide to 98 percent water.
Before spraying an herbicide, read its label. Usually, a plant must be dry for several hours in order for the herbicide to be highly effective, and this includes Roundup. With most herbicides, the person applying the product should wear, at a minimum, a long-sleeved shirt, long pants, shoes and socks, chemical resistant gloves, hat and safety goggles. Don’t spray on windy days, or during drought conditions. Be sure to follow all safety instructions on herbicide labels before using them.
You have a couple choices when deciding how to rid a clover plot of unwanted grasses. If the clover’s mature and the grass is short and scattered, mowing would be a good plan of action. The clover will grow rapidly and overpower the grass, returning the clover to its maximum forage production. However, if the clover is short and the grass is abundant and taller, then an herbicide needs to be used.
But don’t reach for the Roundup! Remember, it kills everything, and it will kill your clover. Poast is one of the weapons of choice here because it’s a selective herbicide that targets only grasses. For maximum results, it needs a surfactant added (crop oil concentrate, or others). The mixing instructions will be on the label, and if Poast is applied evenly, it should control your grass problem for a period of time.
OK, so you’ve successfully killed the unwanted grasses, but now you notice a broadleaf weed problem in your plot. What now?
Broadleaf weeds (of which clover is one) that need to be eradicated from a clover field require another selective herbicide, one that will kill the unwanted broadleaf plants, yet not harm the broadleaf clover. This brings into play a product—Slay—that was recently developed specifically for those managing small food plots. Slay comes in sizes of 4 ounces for 1 acre, and 1 pint for 4 acres.
Slay was developed to control broadleaf weeds in most clovers and alfalfas. It requires a surfactant to be added, which can be obtained from the manufacturer.
Arrest, a selective herbicide developed to kill grasses in food plots, is also available in small quantities. As with Slay, Arrest was developed for most clover and alfalfa products, but if you’re spraying both Arrest and Slay on a plot, time the sprayings at least 3 days apart for best results.
Ask The Experts
When undesirable grasses and broadleaf weeds appear in your plot, get help from county extension offices or farmers in identifying what they are and then contact your seed supplier for advice as to what herbicides to use to treat the problem. Believe me, they’ve encountered all the same problems you have and will be able to help you. Always be eager to gain all the knowledge you can about improving the production of nutritious forage in your food plots.