Springtime is Primetime...for Perennial Food Plot Work

By Whitetail Institute Staff

Even though deer hunting season is over, don’t make the mistake of forgetting about your perennial food plots. Controlling grassy and broadleaf weeds is usually easy, and you should do it in a timely manner to ensure that your perennials remain as lush and nutritious as possible, and that they last for as many years as possible. That’s why the Whitetail Institute offers Arrest and Slay, two herbicides specifically designed for food plots.

In this article, we’ll show you how to get the best results from Arrest and Slay. We’ll be talking about spraying herbicides as part of perennial forage maintenance, so it makes sense to begin by covering a few basic terms you’ll need to know when discussing Arrest, Slay and any other herbicide.

Weed Terminology

 As shown below, the term “weed” is used to describe any plant that’s growing where it isn’t wanted. When more specificity is needed, “weeds” can then be categorized based on certain specific characteristics: “Weed” — Any plant growing where it isn’t wanted “Grassy Weed” — a weed that look like grass “Vining Weed” — a weed that grows in a vine “Woody Weed” — a weed that has a woody stem “Sapling” — a young, small tree with a thin trunk diameter “Broadleaf Weed” — any weed not in another subcategory

Herbicide Terminology Herbicide “Label.”

This is the official set of instructions and advice that you’ll find attached to every herbicide. The label will tell you whether or not the herbicide is appropriate for your intended use, how to mix the spray solution, apply it, and dispose of any leftover solution — everything you need to know about the herbicide. It’s the only source of information that you know is absolutely accurate, and I can’t stress this too strongly: Make sure you consult the herbicide label in all matters relating to the use of any herbicide. Otherwise, you may get results you didn’t anticipate, and none of them are good. You may get less than optimum control on weeds, or even damage your forage plants or the environment. So again, read and follow all label instructions on any herbicide.

“Control” and “Suppress.” These are terms you’ll see on herbicide labels, and they do not mean the same thing. The difference describes the effect the herbicide is designed to have on the ability of a treated weed to compete with a crop. When using herbicides to maintain perennial forage stands, “Control” means destruction or damage of a weed to the point that it can no longer compete with the forage at all (a/k/a “kill”). “Suppress” means that the weed isn’t destroyed, but it is compromised enough to limit its ability to compete with the forage plants.

“Selective” and “Non-selective” Herbicides. Selective herbicides such as Whitetail Institute Slay and Arrest are specifically designed to control or suppress specific weeds in specific types of forage stands without harming the forage plants when used according to the herbicide label instructions. The label on selective herbicides lists crops that have been proven appropriate to spray with the herbicide (“listed crops”) and weeds the herbicide is designed to control or suppress (“listed weeds”). Non-selective herbicides such as glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup-type herbicides, are those that may control or suppress any plant they come into contact with.

“Foliar Uptake” and “Root Uptake.” Some herbicides, for instance Arrest and glyphosate, are foliar-uptake, meaning that their only path into a weed is through the weed’s actively growing leaf. Herbicides such as Slay are both foliar-uptake and root-uptake, the latter meaning that weeds can also take the herbicide in through soil activity.

“Small-Weed” Herbicides. Arrest and Slay are within the class of selective herbicides referred to as “small-weed” herbicides because they’re designed to provide optimum control of listed weeds when the weeds are still very young. In most cases, Arrest and Slay can still suppress or control listed weeds even after they’ve matured, but it may be harder and/or take multiple applications to do so.

Arrest and Slay: General Information

 Arrest is designed to control most kinds of grassy weeds, and it can be used in any Whitetail Institute perennial forage stand, and in any other clover or alfalfa stand. Slay is designed to control a few types of grassy weeds and most kinds of broadleaf weeds, and it can be used in Imperial Whitetail Clover and in any other clover or alfalfa stand. Arrest and Slay can also be used in other types of forage stands, but not all, so if you are planning to spray Arrest and/or Slay in a forage stand other than the types specified above, check the herbicide label to make sure the forage is a listed crop, or call the Whitetail Institute for advice at (800) 688-3030 before you spray.

Surefire Seed Oil. Surefire Seed Oil is an “adjuvant” (something you add to the spray tank) specifically for Arrest and Slay. It is vegetable based and even contains an anti-foaming agent to help you mix the spray tank correctly. Surefire is strongly recommended for use with Arrest to help it control grassy weeds that are perennial or mature. You must add an adjuvant such as Surefire to the Slay spray tank for Slay to work.

Ammonium Sulfate (Optional for Slay). The Slay label says that high-nitrogen liquid fertilizers such as ammonium sulfate “may be applied” as part of the Slay spray solution. In other words, it’s okay to include them in the Slay spray tank, but not mandatory. The purpose for which such fertilizers are added to herbicide spray solutions is to combat the negative effects of hard water on a herbicide’s efficacy — to help buffer this effect and allow the solution to stay longer in a form that will provide optimum control. If you decide to add ammonium sulfate to the Slay spray tank, make sure it is “spray grade” so that it will flow through your sprayer nozzles without clogging them.

Practical Tips

 Remember, before you use Arrest or Slay, be sure that the forage you’ll be maintaining is a listed crop and the weeds you want to control or suppress are listed weeds. Once you know that Arrest and/or Slay is appropriate for your intended use, the following steps will help you get the most out of them.

Timing the Spray Applications Time your Arrest application first, immediately after spring green-up. The number-one priority in maintaining perennial food plots, other than having proper soil pH, is controlling grass. If you don’t control grass in a timely manner, it can take over the plot in a hurry. Since Arrest is a foliar-uptake herbicide, it should be sprayed only when grassy weeds are actively growing. And since Arrest is a small weed herbicide, spray before the weeds mature their roots, which most grassy weeds do once they reach 6–12 inches in height, for best results. Arrest can still control or suppress most grassy weeds after they mature, but it may take multiple applications several weeks apart to do so.

With Arrest, optimum spray timing depends on the age of the grass. Arrest can be sprayed even on newly planted listed crops that are still very young without chemically harming them. I say “chemically” because you don’t want to otherwise harm your forage seedlings by walking or driving across then and breaking their roots. (Let common sense be your guide on that.)

With Slay, you must wait to spray newly planted food plots until the forage stand has established. Clover, for example, should not be sprayed with Slay until all the leaves are unfolded, which generally happens once the clover plants reach about three inches in height.

Time your Slay application at least three days before or three days after the Arrest application. If you spray Slay within three days of an Arrest treatment, it will reduce the effectiveness of the Arrest application. Also, while Arrest is strictly a foliar-uptake herbicide, Slay is both foliar-uptake and root-uptake, so you can spray Slay a little before or after spring green-up. Again, be sure to add an adjuvant such as Surefire Seed Oil — highly recommended for use with Arrest, and mandatory for Slay.

Cleaning the Sprayer after Use. Mix one quart of household ammonia per 25 gallons of water, and run it through the sprayer after use. This helps ensure optimum sprayer performance and minimize the risk of herbicide contamination that might injure desirable plants on a subsequent spray trip.

Put Safety First

All herbicide labels provide solid advice about the importance of wearing protective clothing when handling and applying herbicides. The most important basic items include chemical-resistant gloves, eye protection, long-sleeve shirt, long pants, and boots. Even though Arrest and Slay are among some of the least toxic herbicides, be sure to follow the label’s advice about protective gear — they’re on the label for a reason. That’s why the Whitetail Institute’s Weed and Herbicide Scientist, Dr. Carol Johnson, takes along what he calls his “possibles bag” any time he sprays herbicides. His kit includes several gallons of potable water for clean-up, and emergency bathing in the event of a spill or exposure due to a ruptured spray line, as well as soap, household ammonia, an eye-flushing kit, and extra personal protective clothing.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this article has helped clear up any confusion you may have had about herbicide use in maintaining existing forage stands. Again, the herbicide label is the only official source of information about Arrest, Slay or any other herbicide. The Arrest and Slay labels and an FAQ are available on the Whitetail Institute’s website at www.whitetailinstitute.com/products/herbicides.html. And remember, if you still have questions after reading the Arrest or Slay label, call the Whitetail Institute for advice before you spray. The Whitetail Institute’s in-house consultants are available to assist you at (800) 688-3030, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Central time, Monday through Friday.