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Palmer Amaranth Hitting Your Fields? Act Quick, Specialist Advises

If you're still planting corn but have worries about Palmer amaranth -- a potentially ravenous weed pest that has already been confirmed this spring in spots around the Corn Belt -- you may want to change course before you run the planter again.

In the last two weeks, agronomists have found Palmer amaranth in the western, central, and eastern Corn Belt, and the weed that's difficult to distinguish from similar but less-damaging weed species is likely elsewhere in the region, a cause to get out and scout your fields that are already planted.

If you see signs of the weed now in unplanted acres, it's likely best to take action before you get your seed in the ground, if not soon after, according to one specialist. Sure, you can still control the weed later on, but it becomes much more difficult and costly once the plant gets about 4 inches tall.

"Using a preemergent herbicide is so important to get the weeds at their weakest point," says Purdue University Extension weed scientist Travis Legleiter, who's recently helped roll out a series of videos and study results showing the importance of nipping Palmer amaranth as early as prior to emergence. He led a research team to produce a time-lapse video of the first few weeks of a soybean plot, half of which was treated with a preemergent herbicide for the weed side-by-side with one that wasn't. The 1.5-minute video shows how quickly the weed can move in and spread over a field without either a preemerge or early-season treatment.

"After viewing these videos, the message we want to get across to producers is the utility of using a preemergent herbicide," Legleiter says in a university report. "One thing we don't talk about a lot is biomass. Palmer amaranth plants get tall, but they also get wide, taking up a lot of light and crowding out other plants."

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