Spring Weed and Grass Control Vital to Perennial Forage Maintenance and Fall Success

By Jon Cooner

 Bucks and perennial food plots have something important in common during spring and summer: They require your attention and a little work to make sure they’re in top form when fall rolls around. Just as it takes protein, mineral and vitamin supplementation during spring and summer to help bucks grow the biggest racks they can, it takes some work to make sure your perennial food plots stay as lush, attractive, nutritious and weed-free as possible. One of the most important steps in perennial forage maintenance is to keep grass and other weeds in check. Whitetail Institute herbicides are specifically designed to help you do that.

Whitetail Institute Herbicides: Descriptions

Arrest Max. Arrest Max is a selective grass herbicide that will control most kinds of grass, and it can be used on any Whitetail Institute perennial forage stand (and now, even on PowerPlant). Slay. Slay is a selective broadleaf-weed herbicide that will control most kinds of broadleaf weeds, and it can be used on Imperial Whitetail Clover and on any other clover or alfalfa when all the plants have grown to at least three inches tall and have all their leaves unfolded. The Slay label provides additional information.

Surefire Crop Oil Plus. Surefire is a high-quality agricultural oil that satisfies the adjuvant requirement for Slay and that’s also highly recommended for use with Arrest Max. Surefire is vegetable based, not petroleum based like some other agricultural oils. It even contains an anti-foaming agent to help you mix the spray solution correctly.

Use of Herbicides Grass Control. When it comes to perennial forage maintenance, the most important task is to make sure you control grass in a timely manner. As Dr. Wiley Johnson, the Whitetail Institute’s first director of forage research, said, “You’ve got to get grass under control as soon as it starts growing in the spring, or it can take over the plot in a hurry.” That’s why controlling grass each spring is your No. 1 priority in perennial forage maintenance. Arrest Max enters grass through its leaves, so wait to spray it until you see grass actively growing — not just looking greener, but looking green and actually growing taller. When you see the grass growing, it’s best to spray before the grass matures.

Surefire Crop Oil Plus. Arrest Max will still work on mature grasses, but it’s still best to spray when grasses are young. If you will be spraying mature grasses, though, be sure to add Surefire Crop Oil Plus to the Arrest Max spray tank. Arrest Max already comes with oil in it. Even so, adding Surefire to the Arrest Max is highly recommended, as the additional oil will help you get the most effectiveness from your spray efforts. I always add Surefire to my Arrest Max tanks, whether I’m spraying young or mature grasses. That gives me an extra measure of comfort in knowing that if the grass is one the Arrest Max labels says Arrest Max will control, you’ll almost always only have to spray it once. When you consider how inexpensive a two-acre bottle of Surefire is — especially when compared to the cost of seedbed preparation, planting and other food plot expenses — adding Surefire to the Arrest Max spray tank every time is a no-brainer.

Broadleaf Weed Control. Slay requires that an adjuvant such as Surefire Crop Oil Plus be tank-mixed into the Slay spray solution for Slay to work. One of the beauties of new Arrest Max is it can be tank mixed with Slay and still be 100 percent effective — something you couldn’t do with earlier grass herbicides. That means you can mix one spray tank with Arrest Max, Slay and Surefire seed oil, and spray both herbicides together. Also, that way the Surefire that you have to add to the tank for Slay will simultaneously boost the effect of Arrest Max. Like Arrest Max, Slay is also designed to work best on weeds that are still young, so spray Slay in early spring before weeds have a chance to mature.

Other Important Information Integrated Weed Management. If you want to get the best results from your weed control efforts, don’t just rely on herbicides. Instead, make sure you follow what Dr. Carroll Johnson, the Whitetail Institute’s weed and herbicide scientist, refers to as “integrated weed management” by simultaneously tackling weeds in three ways: culturally, physically and, as we’ve already discussed, chemically (with herbicides). As Johnson explains, each is like one leg of a three-legged stool, which requires all three legs for stability. If you’ve never heard of integrated weed management, you might want to review an excellent article Johnson wrote about it in Whitetail News, Vol. 18, No. 3. (You can find the article online at the Whitetail News link at www.whitetailinstitute.com.) Cultural weed control means doing what’s necessary to make sure your forage stand is as lush, healthy and vigorous as possible. To accomplish this, make sure you keep soil pH and fertility at the proper levels. By far the best way to do that is to perform a laboratory soil test and follow the recommendations in the report, but general recommendations are available at whitetailinstitute.com. As Johnson cautions, “Most weeds are opportunists and tend to show up where the stand is thin.” By keeping the forage stand as thick and healthy as you can, you’ll leave less room for weeds to get a foothold. That’s why cultural weed control is the most important way to keep most weeds from compromising a perennial forage stand. Here’s another reason cultural weed control methods are so effective — one you might have never considered: If soil pH in your area is naturally low (acidic), as most fallow soils are, the weeds and grasses that grow in your area will likely prefer acidic soil, and by raising soil pH to neutral (6.5 to 7.5), you ensure that your forage plants can grow well and it can make it harder for grass and weeds to grow. Physical weed control includes any weed control measure that involves taking a physical action against weeds. An example is mowing. From a weed control perspective, periodic mowing to prevent annual weeds from having a chance to flower and make seeds is a normal part of maintenance for all Whitetail Institute perennial forage stands. Another example of physical weed control is pulling up weeds when you see them. Obviously, that’s generally only reasonable when the plot is small or just a few weeds are present, so if you decide to use this method, try to pull up weeds before they get too numerous. A great example is the thistles that appear in my food plots here in Alabama in spring. In many cases, I’ll just see one or two appear, and I’ll pull them as soon as I see them. And here’s a tip: If you pull weeds, be sure to remove them and all their parts from the site. It can be a good idea to stick a garbage bag in your pocket whenever you go to your plots for just such a situation. The planting and maintenance instructions the Whitetail Institute publishes for each of its perennial forage products are designed to help you achieve the most robust growth and longest life from your perennial plantings. You can find them on the back of the product bags, and they’re also available at whitetailinstitute.com. And if you have questions, the Whitetail Institute’s in-house consultants are just a phone call away at (800) 688-3030.