Considerations for Burndown

Early-emerging weeds may potentially cause significant yield loss. Burndown herbicide applications are an essential part of weed management. Sequential herbicide application combining different sites of action and foliar and residual activity provide the most effective weed management.

Crops are most vulnerable to weed competition at planting and as the new plants emerge. Significant yield is at risk if weeds are allowed to compete with crops during the first several weeks after planting.1 If not controlled, they can also decrease harvest efficiency and produce seed, which can impact future crops. The presence of early emerging weeds generates several questions important for good weed management:

  • What herbicide or tankmix do I include with my burndown application for additional sites-of-action and residual control?
  • What is my planned follow-up application to ensure I have effective residual control through canopy closure?
  • What herbicide sites of action and residual activity will be needed to control any weed escapes and late-emerging weeds?

Timing: Ideally, weeds should be controlled at least a couple of weeks prior to planting to allow for decomposition of the plant material. Planting into existing weeds, or heavy weed residue that has not had time to decay, can interfere with seed placement and reduce emergence due to poor seed-to-soil contact. If the burndown is delayed, planters should be adjusted to compensate for the increased residue.

Burndown Applications

Starting with clean fields at planting is an essential step for proper weed management:

  • Preplant burndown tank mixtures remove early weed infestations and provide broad spectrum foliar and residual weed control.

  • Dicamba or 2,4-D may be required in burndown tank mixtures for tough-to-control weeds. Both products have planting interval restrictions of a week or more between application and the planting of corn, soybean, or cotton without the associated herbicide trait. Consult individual product labels for precise instructions.
  • Residual herbicides applied with burndown several weeks prior to planting may encounter environmental conditions that limit residual activity into the growing season.
  • An earlier than normal post herbicide application may be required to limit weed competition.
  • The early post application requires a residual component to control late emerging weeds that impact yield potential.
  • Residual herbicides have planting interval or crop rotation restrictions and precautions, which may warrant a change in planting intentions. Consult individual product labels for precise instructions.

Tank-mixed herbicides with different sites of action may cause antagonism that affects performance. For example, a fast acting contact herbicide can interfere with the uptake and translocation of a systemic herbicide by quickly shutting down weed growth.

Higher herbicide use rates, ammonium sulfate (AMS), or adjuvants can help overcome antagonism. AMS has been shown to be an effective additive to condition hard water by deactivating antagonist salts (iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium, sodium, potassium)4, prevent the binding of herbicides to soil particles on leaf surfaces, and improve foliar uptake. Herbicide labels should be checked for all additive rates and restrictions. Some herbicide labels (especially products containing dicamba) restrict the use of AMS.

Environmental conditions affect the rate of weed growth, crop development, crop tolerance to herbicides, and herbicide performance.

Fluctuating day and night temperatures are typical in the spring.

The efficacy of a burndown herbicide application can be reduced by cold temperatures. It is recommended to wait on applying herbicides until nighttime temperatures are above 40°F and daytime temperatures are in the high 50s to low 60s.1 Weed control may be even more effective if there are several days of warmer weather prior to herbicide applications rather than applying on the first warm day of the season.

Low overnight temperatures and slow warming during the day can reduce the rate of weed development. Seedling weeds tend to be more susceptible to soil-applied herbicides under cool conditions because plant emergence is delayed and metabolism is slowed.

Slower weed growth caused by heat, drought, or cold also affects herbicide uptake, translocation, and metabolism that may reduce performance of postemergence herbicides. The best way to limit problems related to warm, dry, or adverse conditions is timely application to small weeds rather than equipment adjustments.3 Usually, postponing a herbicide application is risky because changing weather conditions may delay application until weeds exceed optimum size for good herbicide performance. Most herbicide labels contain statements regarding environmental influences on herbicide performance.

Treatment Recommendations

Scout fields and control weeds throughout the season. Proper application timing helps protect yield potential, ensures correct use rate for weed size, and considers the impact of environmental conditions on performance. Weed management tactics for tough-to-control weeds, such as marestail, giant ragweed, kochia, Amaranthus species and others, can be found at

Sources: 1Pocock, J. 2011. 5 Tips for corn weed management | Start with a clean field – Then control weeds early as they reach 4 inches. Corn and Soybean Digest. 2 Hartzler, R. 2003. Is your weed management program reducing your economic return? Iowa State University Weed Science online 3 Hartzler, R. , Boerboom, C., and Nice, G. 2006. Understanding glyphosate to increase performance. 4 Nalewaja, D. and Matysiak, R. 1991. Salt antagonism of glyphosate. Weed Science 39: 622-629. 5 Pesticides are vital to maintain high crop yields. Poster. Crop Life Foundation. http:// Web sources verified 1/15/15. 180209112732