How Temperature and Rain Can Affect Burndown Herbicides

How Temperature and Rain Can Affect Burndown Herbicides April 18, 2018

It's official — officially cold that is!

Sites across Nebraska set records for the coldest start to an April, reported Al Dutcher, associate state climatologist. In Omaha, the average temperature April 1-15 was 37.2°F, much below the previous records of 43.5°F in 1983 and 45.7°F in 1997.

Finding a good time for burndown herbicide applications has been a little tricky this spring, given the below-normal temperatures experienced through much of April as well as the intermittent snow and rain. In addition to delaying field work, these conditions can directly affect the efficacy of burndown preemergence herbicides. Keeping an eye on the weather forecasts and finding windows of optimal conditions for herbicide applications can help assure the best results from your application and your expense.

The following article, originally published in 2016, explains how these factors affect herbicide performance.

Rainfast Period

Herbicide labels include recommendations on how much time must elapse between herbicide application and subsequent rainfall to ensure good herbicide performance. This is known as the rainfast period.

Generally, herbicide rainfast ratings (Table 1) are based on good growing conditions. Poor conditions may require a longer interval between application and any rainfall to ensure adequate herbicide translocation within the weed before the herbicide is washed off. For many herbicides, any amount of rainfall soon after spraying has the potential to reduce absorption, translocation, and subsequent weed control. If you apply herbicide and it rains before it's rainfast, herbicide performance will be reduced.

Temperature

Wide temperature fluctuations in the last couple of weeks have led to questions about possible effects on performance of burndown herbicides. The likelihood of decreased weed control due to cool temperatures will vary, depending upon the target weed, herbicide, and rate applied. For example, glyphosate usually performs well under a wide range of temperatures. Best performance usually occurs when the temperature is 60-75°F at application and remains there for a few hours afterward.

When the temperature is lower than 60°F, weed growth slows, resulting in slower herbicide uptake and translocation. This increases the required rainfast period and slows the onset of symptoms and herbicide efficacy. If the temperature is below 40°F, avoid applying glyphosate-based herbicides. If a severe frost is predicted immediately following an intended application, it may be advisable to avoid spraying. If weeds are damaged or under stress before herbicide has properly translocated, control may be reduced.

The ideal solution is to wait for better weather conditions. However, if weed size or other situations dictate that the field be treated now, select a herbicide with excellent efficacy on the target species. Reduced herbicide rate treatments are less likely to provide acceptable control under adverse conditions than when plants are actively growing.

For more information on burndown herbicides, see the 2018 Guide for Weed, Disease, and Insect Management in Nebraska.

Table 1. Rainfast periods for various herbicides.
Burndown HerbicideHours until Rainfast
2,4-D 1
Aim 1
Banvel 4
DiFlexx 4
Engenia/FeXapan/XtendiMax* 4
Extreme 1
Fierce 1
FirstRate 2
Gramoxone SL 30 minutes
Liberty 4
Pursuit 1
Roundup PowerMax 30 minutes
Roundup WeatherMax 30 minutes
Scepter 2
Sharpen 1
Touchdown HiTech 1
Touchdown Total 1
Valor 1
Verdict 1
*Burndown application of Engenia/FeXapan/XtendiMax should be made only if planting Roundup Ready 2Xtend soybean.