44.37% of land in the United States is used for growing crops. Perhaps that’s why the country uses about 1/3 of the world’s pesticides, with 8 out of 10 of the most popular types classified as herbicides.
Proper herbicide application depends on a variety of factors, such as the conditions of the soil and environment. One underlooked component is timing, as applying at the wrong time can leave your valuable crops damaged or the weeds and invasive plants you’re attempting to eliminate still standing.
Read our guide to find out all the different types of herbicides you have to choose from, how to apply them properly, and what tools to use.
Types of Herbicides
3% of the world’s 250,000 plant species are considered weeds. At least 200-250 of them have enough seed production, survival, and dormancy to be a problem for crop production. That’s why there are so many types of herbicides on the market to eliminate them.
Before you can understand the different types, you need to develop a proper herbicide definition. A herbicide is an agent, usually a chemical of some kind, used for destroying unwanted plants like weeds or invasive species.
There are several different ways to classify herbicides, and knowing them all helps when it comes time for herbicide application.
Selective vs. Non-Selective
Selective herbicides kill weeds without harming crops or other important plants. Nonselective herbicides kill or damage any plant they’re applied to.
There are two types of selectivity to be aware of. Selectivity by placement involves careful herbicide application so that the chemicals only touch the weeds and not your crops. True selectivity is when a crop comes into contact with a herbicide without being damaged by it.
Always know ahead of time the selectivity of the herbicides you use and what they’ll affect. That way, you can ensure that you’re only removing unwanted plants and not harming your crops. Also, be aware that environmental and genetic factors can affect selectivity and look out for any herbicide damage to your crops.
Pre-plant, Pre-Emergent, and Post Emergent
Herbicides can be classified based on when they’re applied. They’re either considered pre-plant, pre-emergent, or post-emergent.
Preplant herbicides go on the top 2-3 inches of the soil before the crops are even planted. They can help ensure that weeds never grow to choke a crop.
A pre-emergent herbicide is applied a bit later. It goes on the soil after the crop’s seed is planted but before it’s fully germinated, i.e. “emerged.”
A post-emergent herbicide is applied after the crop has fully emerged. It’s best for removing weeds and invasive plants that weren’t present at planting time but appeared as the plant grew.
The type of herbicide you use helps you know when to apply it. A pre-emergent herbicide works best in the early spring when temperatures are no more than 60 degrees and plants haven’t sprouted yet. A post-emergent herbicide only works on plants that have already grown and may require multiple applications throughout the year with a final one in the late fall.
There are several conditions you need to consider for the best results from herbicide application. These include growth stages and environmental conditions.
Most herbicides tell you what growth stage your crops should be at before you apply them. Follow these instructions, as applying too soon or too late can cause damage.
Also, consider the growth state of the weed or invasive plant you want to remove. The younger it is and the larger its leaves, the more effective your herbicide application will be.
Environmental conditions like wind, temperature, and water can also affect herbicides. Try to choose a time of the year and/or day that’s dry, only mildly humid, and not too windy.
Don’t forget to check the pH level of your soil and look for any organic matter that may interfere with your herbicides.
Be careful when mixing herbicides. Start with dry elements, then liquid components, then emulsifiable concentrates, then water-soluble formations, then adjuvants, then finish by adding any leftover water or liquid fertilizer. Don’t mix concentrated herbicides while the tank is empty and try not to let your sprayer stand to keep chemicals from settling and clogging the equipment.
Choosing a Sprayer
One of the most important parts of proper herbicide application is choosing the right tools for the job. Farm sprayers help you maintain and prevent any problems on your land, which is why it’s so important to choose the best one.
Man-portable systems are easy to use and great for quick jobs. An ATV/UTV or pickup tank sprayer can be pulled behind you on your vehicle. While it can’t hold a large amount of liquid, it can be a great backup option.
You may need something more powerful for regular herbicide applications throughout your field. Tow-behind or mist sprayers can do the job.
There are also several options for where to put the boom on your sprayer.
Rear-mounted booms are some of the most common. A front-mounted boom is reliable and holds a large amount of material. Boomless sprayers are cheaper but harder to control, can only spray in a straight line, and are susceptible to damage.
Check here for more on the different types of farm sprayers and how to choose the best one.
Where to Get Herbicide Help
Proper herbicide application is an art and requires precise timing and careful decision-making. There are several things you must consider at once if you want the best results.
The first and potentially most important factor is choosing the right type of herbicide. There are several factors that determine when and how they do their job. Be sure to choose the best one for your particular crops and unwanted plants.
The next consideration is when and how to apply the herbicide. Make sure to apply the chemicals at the right growth state and when conditions are ideal. Be careful when mixing the chemicals and choose the best sprayer and other tools to spread them throughout your field.
Choosing the best materials for herbicide application can be tough because there are so many options available. We have something for all your agricultural needs.