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Boost volunteer corn control in soybean fields

Volunteer corn can sap soybean yields, but there are plenty of good control options.

The No. 1 weed problem in Nebraska soybeans isn’t what you probably think it is. 

Year-in and year-out, volunteer corn is soybean growers’ top weed nemesis, says Amit Jhala, the University of Nebraska-Lincoln weed specialist. It makes sense, given that herbicide-tolerant corn is grown in rotation with soybeans in the Cornhusker State. 

South Dakota research says soybean yield loss was 8% to 9% when volunteer corn density was about one plant per 10 square feet, but when volunteer corn density is one plant per square foot, yield loss increases to 71%. 

“One of the factors that makes volunteer corn management difficult in soybeans is that this corn is typically resistant to glyphosate and/or glufosinate, and dicamba and 2,4-D do not control it,” says Sarah Lancaster, weed specialist at Kansas State University. 

In addition, tank mixes with dicamba or 2,4-D may reduce the effectiveness of glyphosate and Group 2 herbicides like clethodim (Select Max, others) or quizalofop (Assure II, others). However, Lancaster suggests there are some steps farmers can take early in the growing season to manage volunteer corn in soybean crops.

Burndown options 

As mentioned above, glyphosate will not control glyphosate-resistant corn. Paraquat (Gramoxone, others) will control volunteer corn that has emerged prior to soybean planting. Glufosinate (Liberty, others) will also control volunteer corn – assuming the corn is not glufosinate-resistant (LibertyLink). 

“One thing to remember with burndown herbicide applications is that they must come in contact with the growing point to ensure the corn plant will not regrow,” Lancaster says.

At-planting options

In research conducted at the University of Nebraska, pre-emergence applications of sulfentrazone in combination with imazethapyr, cloransulam, metribuzin, or chlorimuron (Authority Assist, Authority First, Authority MTZ, or Authority XL) reduced volunteer corn growth compared with nontreated controls. Other treatments, including flumioxazin (Valor, others) alone or in combination with chlorimuron (Valor XLT) or cloransulam (Gangster), or fomesafen + metolachlor (Prefix) or saflufenacil + imazethapyr (Optill) did not reduce volunteer corn growth.

Over-the-top options

Group 2 herbicides (Select Max, Assure II, Fusilade, Poast, and others) are typically very effective on volunteer corn. However, research from Indiana suggests that volunteer corn control by clethodim formulations without ‘fully loaded’ surfactants can be reduced up to about 60% when applied with glyphosate or glyphosate plus 2,4-D and up to about 75% when applied with glyphosate plus dicamba. Reduced control in tank mixes can be overcome by increasing the rate of the Group 2 herbicide to the maximum labeled rate. The loss of control can also be minimized by using a clethodim formulation with a more aggressive surfactant package. In addition, research from North Dakota suggests that adding a high surfactant oil concentrate (HSOC) can improve volunteer corn control by tank mixtures of clethodim plus glyphosate, but neither NIS nor AMS improve control.

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