Misleading herbicide ads and the People’s Court

The world recently lost Judge Joseph Wapner, a man of integrity who brought evenhandedness and a gentle humor to the proceedings of The People’s Court.  Along with judicial wisdom, he could have  low tolerance for the many idiots who came through his court, and always found a way to bore right to the core issues.  He probably would have had low tolerance for the recent dealings we had with two agrichemical giants over an herbicide ad one of them apparently ran in parts of Illinois.  For the sake of anonymity, we can call these two giants, “large company S” and “large company D”.  Both companies sell very broad spectrum, multi-component preemergence corn herbicide premix products, and of course both “large company S” and “large company D” believe their products walk on water and are truly superior to all other preemergence corn products.  The ad in question, produced by “large company S”, showed combined yield results from a 2016 study conducted by OSU and Purdue that compared weed control and yield from various premergence corn herbicides.  As shown in the ad bar chart and wording, the product of “large company S” resulted in a “yield advantage” compared with use of the “large company D” product.  “Large company D” asked us to review the ad for accuracy.  Upon reviewing the data from the two individual OSU and Purdue studies, we found that there was no significant difference in yield between the two products that walk on water in either study.  Nonetheless, someone at “large company S” HQ decided to average yields between studies and create an ad that made it look as though there was higher yield for their product.   We do have to respect the ability of “large company S” to fess up when we confronted them with this.  Their response was essentially “yup you caught us.  We ignored the statistics and just floated it out there anyway figuring that no one would notice”.


 In the meantime, it was pointed out to us that while trying to occupy most of the high moral ground here, “large company D” was known to be cutting recommended rates of their product that walks on water in certain areas to be more cost competitive with the “large company S” product.  And in the end “large company S” essentially reminded us of the possibly also somewhat dubious approach of “large company D” in selling product and stated “the attorneys for large company D can contact our attorneys if they want to pursue this further”.  We believe in the legal world these are known as the “wait – but they did this” and “nananana poo poo – just try to get us” arguments.  Both very effective at times we’re sure.  However we can’t help thinking that in this case even Judge Wapner’s response might have been, “Bailiff, kick these people in the a** and get them out of my court”.  (In the interest of honesty, which is what this blog post is about, we should say we borrowed this last quote from a Doonesbury comic strip.  Always wanted to use this somewhere.)


We have been doing this for 25+ years, and have observed numerous instances where companies manipulated data somewhat or ignored statistics to create the story they want.  This manipulation can be the only reason why herbicide ads for a given product always show that product as either more effective or providing higher yield than the competitors’ products.  In all fairness to companies, it probably doesn’t make much sense to run an ad that shows the opposite.  In fact, we had this same discussion with “large company S” a couple of years ago, with regard to another of their ads.  The ad also showed a bar chart where their preemergence corn product that walks on water outyielded the competitors’ products in an OSU trial.  Checking our data, it was apparent that there was no significant yield difference, but you never would have known this from the ad, where the bar for their product was a different color and substantially taller than the other bars.  Because different colors of course do indicate that significant differences occurred regardless of what the statistics showed.  Which leads us to ask “large company S” (and everyone else really), if you’re going to ignore the statistics that in fact show whether real differences occurred, why even bother to have independent researchers such as OSU and Purdue conduct the study?  Why not just make up the results so that everyone knows your product is truly the best?


We really have better things to do than try to police ads where our data are misrepresented.  It’s not a very rewarding activity.  We don’t want to say it’s a mistake to ever trust the yield results shown in herbicide ads – no wait – let’s go with that – it’s a mistake to ever trust yield results shown in herbicide ads.  And hey – just a reminder – experimental design and statistical analysis procedures exist for a reason.  If we ignore them, then all we’re left with are “alternative facts”, right?


It’s a brutally competitive herbicide sales world out there.  Stay ethical my friends.  RIP Your Honor.

XtendiMax and Engenia information

Labels for XtendiMax (Monsanto), Fexapan (DuPont), and Engenia (BASF) are available online at CDMS and other label sites.  Fexapan is the same formulation and label as XtendiMax.  They are provided here also in case it’s helpful.  For each product there is a main label and then also a supplemental label with directions specific to soybeans.  Both labels should be reviewed by applicators, especially with regard to stewardship to prevent off-target movement.  The soybean label alone does not provide all of the necessary information on this.  Below the links to labels are links to:  1) an OSU Powerpoint pdf that summarizes some of the label information; and 2) a new USB Take Action infographic on spray drift prevention.  Any other product of any kind that will be mixed with XtendiMax, Fexapan, or Engenia must be approved and listed at the corresponding websites, along with any nozzles used for application.

XtendiMax label

XtendiMax soybean label

Engenia label

Engenia soybean label

Fexapan soybean label

Basics of XtendiMax, Fexapan, and Engenia (OSU powerpoint)

Reducing Spray Drift (USB Take Action fact)

ODA Comparison Chart of Engenia and XtendiMax

New Palmer amaranth finds – we’re mowing down soybean fields folks

It’s been a “fun” couple weeks to be a weed scientist.  While on vacation we were getting calls about new Palmer amaranth finds and had to make the recommendation to mow down one field of soybeans in SW Ohio to prevent an even bigger mess next year.  Another field in that same area had enough plants to justify localized mowing where the plants were.  The initial introduction of Palmer appeared to be due to purchase of a combine from Georgia, which was used in several operations.  Early this week we visited several soybean fields in NE Ohio that had also been mowed down due to dense Palmer infestations after an OSU county educator talked to the growers.  A couple more fields nearby probably should have been mowed down as well.  Photos of some of the mowed and unmowed fields below.  A central thing about Palmer amaranth has been reinforced through all of this.  The message that we got from our counterparts in the south several years ago when Palmer started to rear it’s ugly head here was – “you have to get across to growers that if seed production is not stopped when there are just a few plants, this weed will take over a field faster than any other weed they have dealt with.”  This is due to the extremely prolific seed production that can be well upwards of 200,000 seeds per plant.  And this was readily apparent for the fields that had to be mowed down.  We know that Palmer was in these fields last year, but apparently not at a level to raise concern.  And this year it’s essentially game over.  Be warned.  It’s also apparent that mowing of large plants with seedheads will usually have to be followed with some type of aggressive tillage that cuts up plants well so that they cannot recover and still produce seed.  We also observed plenty of new Palmer plants emerging still, and this season-long emergence is another trait that makes it so tough to manage.



Marestail control in wheat stubble – applicable OSU research

As promised in the C.O.R.N. newsletter, we have added a link on the marestail page (or click here) to access some of our research results on control in wheat stubble and a couple other tough situations.  The first page shows four scenarios:  sites 1 and 2 are the same population but site 2 was where it had survived a previous glyphosate application; site 3 where plants regrew following mowing (similar to cutter bar on a combine); and site 4 had plants that had survived tillage.  The results pretty clearly show how much more difficult it was to control the plants in sites 3 and 4.  The second page shows results of a wheat stubble study, where plants had been low growing and mostly unaffected by the cutter bar, and then grew following wheat harvest.  There were two application timings, and the results show the benefit of the earlier application for some treatments.  The generally high level of control in this study probably overestimates control that will be obtained in many fields where plants have regrown following cutter bar damage.

A few observations from windshield scouting

We spent some time windshield scouting fields northeast of Columbus this week after being called out to determine whether a mystery weed was Palmer amaranth.  There were only a few plants of this mystery weed in the field, and it tuned out to be common mullein.  The inflorescence stalk on mullein can resemble a long Palmer seed head from a distance, but upon closer examination it’s difficult to confuse the two weeds.  Mullein has a single stalk inflorescence while Palmer can have many, and the rest of the mullein plant doesn’t resemble an amaranth at all.  Mullein rarely shows up in large numbers in corn and soybean fields, being primarily a weed of more undisturbed places.  Use of the “images” tool in a Google search will allow you to pull up photos of both and see for yourself.  Also take a look at the video on amaranth identification in the Palmer amaranth section of this website under the “weeds” tab.  A couple photos below of mullein (left) and Palmer (right) to prove the point – the mullein photo was from the field in question:

IMG_3100palmer seedheads

In the soybeans behind the mullein, symptoms of PPO herbicide application were evident (fomesafen), which was intended to control giant ragweed and I suppose possibly marestail.  The giant ragweed was pretty well controlled and the marestail unaffected.  We have received more calls than usual asking for any possible solutions to control marestail in Roundup Ready soybeans, and there still aren’t any.  Money spent on PPO inhibitors (fomesafen, Cobra, Cadet, etc) or 2,4-DB in an attempt to control marestail is just wasted in our opinion.  Reports of glyphosate resistance in giant ragweed and common ragweed have also been on the rise.  There has been much use of fomesafen remediate this, although expectations of effectiveness are often too high.  Fomesafen is about an 85% herbicide on small giant ragweed plants, and this number decreases with plant size. Keep in mind also that when fomesafen is the primary herbicide in the mix for control of glyphosate-resistant ragweed, the rate, adjuvants, and application volume need to be optimized for fomesafen.  This means use of the highest rate possible per geographic area, inclusion of COC or MSO, and upwards of 15 gpa.

We also found an infestation of waterhemp on this trip, in a field of LibertyLink soybeans.  The LibertyLink system can be effective for management of waterhemp, but the plants in this field were already up to 20 inches tall.  The field was supposed to be treated with glufosinate “soon”, which still was way too LATE.  Glufosinate won’t control waterhemp plants this tall, and we suggested the addition of fomesafen, which still might not be enough.  And finally, one of our educators sent us the following photo of waterhemp in soybeans (I think there are soybeans in there):


These plants are of course well beyond any control measures that involve herbicides.  The grower has decided at this point that continuous soybeans and use of only glyphosate may not be the best course, and is thinking about residual herbicides and corn and cover crops for next year.  Some people will change when the sky actually falls on them I guess.

U of Missouri Weed Identification and Herbicide Injury Guide

The weed science group at U of Missouri has released a new publication, “Weed Identification and Herbicide Injury Guide”. It’s available for $18 at http://extension.missouri.edu – search for “IPM1007”. It’s well done, so consider adding to your library or folder of materials carried around to aid in problem solving and making recommendations. Cover and sample pages shown below.

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Weed control in spring barley

We are currently in our first year of research to determine the safest and most effective herbicide programs for spring barley in Ohio.  This research is briefly described in the video below.  We don’t have any prior experience with weed control in spring barley.  Summer annual weeds such as ragweeds, lambsquarters, pigweeds, and foxtails are the primary weed problem in spring-planted crops, and the competitiveness of the crop with weeds will be affected by planting date and stand density, among other things.  There are a number of herbicides registered for use in barley, but not all labels specifically mention spring barley.  Control of foxtails in barley can be obtained only by POST application of an Axial product, such as Axial XL or Axial Star, and labels for these products just mention “barley”.   Axial Star controls ragweeds in addition to foxtails, since the premix contains fluroxypyr (Starane) in addition to the pinoxaden (Axial XL).  Axial products can be applied up to the pre-boot stage, when grass weeds  have 1 to 5 leaves and less than 3 tillers.  There is no mention of a need for adjuvants on Axial XL and Star labels, but mixtures with certain broadleaf herbicides may require nonionic surfactant (check labels).  Labels for the following broadleaf herbicides specifically mention spring barley:  2,4-D, MCPA, bromoxynil (Moxy, etc), dicamba (Clarity, etc), Huskie, Peak, Pulsar, and Starane.  Labels for another group of broadleaf herbicides do not specifically mention spring barley, just “barley”:  Aim, Cleansweep, Orion, Widematch, tribenuron (Express, etc), and thifensulfuron/tribenuron premix (Harmony Xtra, etc).  We have descriptions and ratings for all of these on summer annual weeds in the “Weed Control Guide for Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois” (page 139-149 of 2016 edition).

Can you burn down big marestail this late?

There are still some tough burndown situations in the state due to weeks of less than ideal weather conditions.  Controlling large marestail is probably the biggest challenge, especially when there’s not much time between herbicide application and soybean planting.  This situation is discussed in the video below.  We realized too late however that while we showed examples of areas where marestail were still alive following an early burndown, we didn’t cover what the options were for a second burndown to control these and newly emerging plants where soybeans have yet to be planted.  Options here depend upon what was already applied earlier in spring.  Where a mixture of glyphosate, 2,4-D and residual herbicides was applied early, a follow up burndown of Sharpen plus glyphosate or glufosinate or Gramoxone would be adequate to control the marestail and small grasses and ragweeds that have emerged.  It’s probably possible to just apply Gramoxone or glufosinate in these situations, along with a few ounces of metribuzin.  Where residual herbicides were applied early, it may also be beneficial to include another reduced rate of residuals in any second burndown.  This can improve the chances of: 1) controlling marestail until the soybean canopy can take over and provide late-season control; and 2) controlling giant ragweed, grasses, and other weeds until soybeans get somewhat established and the POST herbicides can be applied.

It’s official – marestail is public enemy #1 in soybeans

Results of a national survey of weed scientists and practitioners conducted by the national and regional weed science societies are in.  Probably no surprise to all of us here in Ohio that marestail was identified as the most troublesome weed in soybeans.  The other four weeds mentioned most frequently as hard to control in soybeans were Palmer amaranth, waterhemp, and giant and common ragweed.  Nationally, over all crops, weeds designated as most troublesome, starting with the one listed the most times, were:  Palmer amaranth, morningglory, lambsquarters, waterhemp, marestail, nutsedges, kochia, giant ragweed, Canada thistle, and foxtails.

Link to the WSSA newsletter that contains a summary of the survey – http://wssa.net/wp-content/uploads/WSSA_April_2016.pdf.

The amazing marestail plant – is there anywhere it can’t grow?


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Get a handle on pigweed identification

Our latest video covers pigweed identification. We compare four aspects of pigweed biology that we use to differentiate between redroot pigweed, waterhemp, and Palmer amaranth – pubescence, petiole length, leaf shape, and inflorescence (seedhead) characteristics.