View From the Cab

Farmers Talk Waterhemp Woes as Crop Harvest Nears

Pamela Smith
By  Pamela Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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The late-season view from Zachary Grossman's cab includes some roadsides to mow as he waits for the corn and soybeans to edge toward harvest. (DTN photo by Jason Jenkins)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Excuse Zachary Grossman if he spits out the word waterhemp like it puts a bad taste in his mouth. It does.

The tenacious summer annual has put on an end of the season sprint this year that has left the weed waving from fields as if it won a marathon. It has.

Grossman, who farms near Tina, Missouri, in the northwest corner of the state, said his fields stayed mostly clean all summer. Then came buckets of rain in early August that revived crops and weeds, too.

"Don't get me wrong, the rain saved our crop. Those weeds aren't costing us yield at this point, but we don't want to be adding weed seed back for next year," he said.

In the southeast corner of North Dakota, Chandra and Mike Langseth are also experiencing some waterhemp woes. They didn't get August rains in the volumes experienced by Grossman, but there was enough to put on a late flush of several troublemakers, which also includes weeds such as lambsquarters and cocklebur.

The Langseths, who farm near Barney, and Grossman are participating in DTN's View From the Cab series this season. The farmers report routinely on crop conditions and other rural topics. This is the 18th week of the feature for 2023.

It's not just potential loss of yield from weed competition, but increasing weed resistance to herbicides that also concerns these farmers. More specifically, they are worried about retaining the utility of glufosinate as more reliance is placed on it as postemergence control.

Read on to also learn about how harvest prospects are shaping up and some of their approaches to farm safety as it approaches.


Doesn't it just figure that the toughest-looking soybean field on the whole farm is the one Chandra Langseth drives by at least twice every weekday as she goes to and from her job? "It's our worst IDC (iron deficiency chlorosis) field and it just hasn't grown out of it this year," she says. Besides helping her husband, Mike, on the farm, Chandra teaches precision agriculture and agronomy courses at North Dakota State College of Science in Wahpeton.

Scouting some soybean fields this week, she can't help but be impressed by how much the crop has improved since rains in early August. "I was finding a good number of four-bean pods in the mid-to-upper part of the plant. It's exciting to find that.

"I'm impressed with how good the bean crop looks given the dry conditions we've experienced. It may not be a stellar year, but it's not going to be nearly as bad as we thought earlier in the season," she said.

The most recent USDA-NASS Crop Progress report for North Dakota rated soybean condition as 5% very poor, 15% poor, 34% fair, 40% good, and 6% excellent. About 4% were dropping leaves, near 3% last year, but behind the 13% average.

Corn condition rated 2% very poor, 9% poor, 30% fair, 52% good, and 7% excellent. Corn dough was 82%, ahead of 75% last year and 76% average. Dented was 30%, ahead of 16% last year, and near the 26% average.

Variability remains the word in what is the second year of drought for this area of the Red River Valley. "No question that we've seen the benefits of good water holding capacity in soils," Chandra said. "Those subtle differences whether it is topography or organic matter are having a big impact."

Those weather patterns also influenced weed control this year. Spray windows are tight in a good year and all the talk about best management practices to get the best results sounds great, except when conditions don't cooperate.

"Mike and I are very aware of herbicide resistance and committed to maintaining trait options on our farm," Chandra said. "But there are situations where you push it -- like the one train wreck field we had this year in beans. The first pass of Liberty (glufosinate) went on and conditions weren't perfect for control. It required a second pass of Liberty. It went out with 30 gallons of water and a strong adjuvant that really cleaned up the problem and I'm proud of how that field looks.

"Still, we know we probably put stress on that system with subsequent use of the same chemistry. The problem is, there aren't a lot of effective alternatives at that time of the year and you are almost in a triage situation when there are big escapes," she said.

"We try to do a good job and be robust with rates, adjuvants and gallonage, but there are a lot of logistics that come into play," she added. "We want to do everything we can to avoid weed resistance to glufosinate because that chemistry is an important component of our herbicide program right now."

Committing to using the products right and giving them the best possible chance to work effectively is important in fighting resistance, she added. "Liberty needs warm temperatures, which can be a challenge here. Using lots of water is not fun, but necessary. I think we're finally learning how to best work with this chemical. Understanding the differences in how products work sounds simple, but it so important to keeping them useful," Chandra said.

Doing a good job with preemergence residuals is also part of the strategy of trying to keep those products viable. Fall weed control isn't much of an option in this part of the world as the ground is often frozen by the time harvest is complete.

Mike calls the sprayer his "summer office." If he's not spraying, he waiting to spray something. The couple is intrigued by new sprayer technology coming that targets weeds with more precision rather than broadacre approaches.

"It's cool stuff," Chandra said. "But the agronomics will still need to be balanced with the technology. Being able to spot spray won't change the fact you shouldn't spray Liberty below 80 degrees or spray weeds that are too tall or whatever," she added.

End of September to early October is the expected harvest start date for the Langseths. Half of the farm acres are irrigated, and pumps are still running and with limited rain in the forecast likely will continue until black layer. In fact, since irrigation began, the units have only been shut off once for more than a two day stretch and that followed the only decent rain of the year, which was in August. The closest North Dakota State Weather Network (NDAWN) station near the farm indicates a five-inch rainfall deficit from June 1 to Aug. 31.

This week Mike finished final repairs on one combine and was readying the second machine. The combines go through a diagnostic checkup each year. "I leave the complicated stuff to the dealership technician, but I do the routine service work and fixes," he said.

Another routine this time of year are safety reminders to the farm staff. The younger workers, in particular, need reminders like: "Don't pick up the 200-lb. thing, use the skid steer ..."

"Our safety message on this farm is to allow enough time in whatever you are doing to slow down. It's tempting to think we're so busy we must rush, but that's when we do dumb things," Mike said.


When Grossman thinks safety, it usually has something to do with trucking grain. Missouri State Highway 65 slices through most of his farm acres and is a corridor to several large cooperatives and ethanol plants.

Grossman figures harvest could start as early as the week of Sept. 4 in some area fields. That means a steady stream of trucks entering, exiting, and traveling that highway for the next several months, he said. It requires patience and attention on the part of all drivers, he noted.

On-farm grain storage will be a new luxury for the farm this year as they've built their first bin which holds 25,000 bushels. "Direct from the field delivery is common in this area, but we wanted a little more flexibility. We'll probably deliver corn until the lines start to back up and then, start filling up the new bin," he said.

Another inch of rain -- give or take -- added to the earlier-in-the-month deluge has put small square baling on his job list for Labor Day, which seems appropriate. This past week he's also been mowing and doing clean up around field edges.

"Dressing things up" by mowing makes him feel a little better about the waterhemp breaks.

"It varies on how bad it is, but I literally don't think there's a field of soybeans in our entire area right now that is 100% clean and it doesn't matter what trait technology it is," Grossman said. He utilizes both Enlist and Xtend technologies on the farm.

The memory of what happened with glyphosate overuse is never far from his thoughts. Like the Langseths, he wants to keep glufosinate in his arsenal. "I think -- I hope --farmers are doing a better job of safeguarding Liberty by sticking to labeled rates and using adequate water for coverage," Grossman said. "Because it is more finicky herbicide, I believe that most farmers are more conscientious about applying it in proper conditions."

At the time most of the beans needed sprayed again this year, it was hot and dry with no rain prospects. "So, we opted not to add a residual in most cases because we weren't getting the rain to activate any residual activity," Grossman said.

"This year we've got an abnormal situation where weed control in our double-crop beans looks beautiful because we had good growing conditions following the second postemergence application."

The last week of August cool down has been blessed relief from heat and humidity. With heat returning this coming week, Grossman expects to see the corn dry down quickly.

The most recent USDA-NASS Crop Progress report for Missouri pegged corn at 96% dough stage and dent was 76%, compared to the five-year average of 70%. Mature corn reached 16%, compared to the five-year average of 12%. Corn condition rated 17% very poor, 19% poor, 23% fair, 38% good, and 3% excellent. Soybean condition rated 8% very poor, 13% poor, 30% fair, 45% good, and 4% excellent. Parts of Missouri remain in severe drought situations, according to the National Drought Monitor.

While Livingston and Carroll counties where Grossman farm are still classified in D1 drought, he's cautiously optimistic that he received just enough rain in the nick of time to pull out some decent yields.

"Soybean leaves are starting to turn and corn is visibly drying down. We may nose in next week and see where we're at," he said.

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Pamela Smith

Pamela Smith
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