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Public domain photo A Canada thistle towers over a grain field. It has already lignified, making it unpalatable to cattle, and its pretty flowers will soon go to seed, setting free thousands of seeds to be borne away on the wind; it's extensive root system also guarantees it will return for the next growing season.

Dense populations of winter annual weeds can compete with wheat, barley, and other small grains in late fall and early spring and slow the rate of crop development.

If winter annual weeds like common chickweed, henbit, marestail and winter annual grasses emerge with the small grain and are left unchecked, the potential impact on yield could be great.

Extension weed specialist Dwight Lingenfelter explains that in these situations, it may make sense to kill these weeds in the fall rather than early spring.

Harmony Extra is the most broad-spectrum herbicide for broadleaf control, but resistant populations of common chickweed are evident in parts of the state.

In addition, there are several herbicides labeled for grass control in wheat, and fall is typically the best time to make an application.

Herbicides for Downy Brome Control

  • Anthem Flex/Zidua
  • Finesse
  • Osprey
  • PowerFlex

For Annual Ryegrass Control

  • Anthem Flex/Zidua
  • Axiom
  • Axial
  • Finesse
  • Osprey
  • Prowl
  • PowerFlex.

Herbicides Active on Annual Bluegrass

  • Axiom, Anthem Flex/Zidua
  • Dimetric, Finesse
  • Osprey

For Roughstalk Bluegrass Control

  • Osprey
  • PowerFlex.

Make sure to include the necessary spray adjuvants.

Remember that cool (less than 50 F) cloudy days can reduce herbicide activity. Also, if you plan to frost-seed or drill a companion crop such as red clover in early spring, it may be best to make a fall herbicide application to avoid issues with herbicide residuals affecting their establishment.

However, even if products such as PowerFlex, Osprey, Dimetric, and others are applied in the fall, their recrop restrictions still prevent seeding of certain crops next spring.

Burndown herbicides for no-till small grains include dicamba, Gramoxone, glyphosate, Harmony Extra, and Sharpen. Refer to the specific product label for more application information.

The legitimate use of 2,4-D for burndown in wheat and other small grains is uncertain. None of the 2,4-D ester or amine labels specify application just prior to small grain seeding or emergence.

Some research suggests a minimum delay of seven to 10 days after application at rates up to 1 pint per acre 2,4-D ester. Since 2,4-D burndown in small grains is ambiguous at best, if injury occurs, liability rests with the consultant or applicator.

Understanding the National Grain Inventory Situation

Recently USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service released the Grain Stocks report, and it showed that old crop corn stocks on hand as of Sept. 1 totaled 2.00 billion bushels, down 10% from Sept. 1, 2019.

Old-crop soybeans stored in all positions were down 42% from Sept. 1, 2019, and all wheat stocks were down 8% from a year earlier.

Of the total corn stocks, 751 million bushels were stored on farms, down 8% from a year earlier. Off-farm stocks, at 1.24 billion bushels, were down 12% from a year ago.

The June-August 2020 indicated disappearance was 3.02 billion bushels, compared with 2.98 billion bushels during the same period a year earlier.

Old-crop soybeans stored in all positions on Sept. 1 totaled 523 million bushels, down 42% from Sept. 1, 2019.

Soybean stocks stored on farms totaled 141 million bushels, down 47% from a year ago. Off-farm stocks, at 382 million bushels, were down 41% from last September.

Indicated disappearance for June to August 2020 totaled 858 million bushels, down 2% from the same period a year earlier.

In preparation for this report, NASS conducted separate surveys for on-farm and off-farms stocks during the first two weeks of September.

Adjusting Your Combine to Reduce Soybean Harvest Losses

Adjusting your combine correctly is an important step in reducing soybean harvest losses. Extension agronomist Del Voight explains that numerous tests of soybean combine losses show that up to 12% of the soybean crop is lost during harvest.

Harvesting losses cannot be reduced to zero, but they can be reduced to about 5%. Combines can be operated to reduce losses without affecting the harvesting rate. Consider shatter losses of 2% acceptable.

Your best guide for correct combine adjustment is your operator’s manual.

Remember that more than 80% of the machine loss usually occurs at the gathering unit. The height of the cutter bar directly affects what beans get into the bin.

If I were to harvest pods by hand versus as little as a 3.5-inch height of cut, I would lose 5% loss just from the cutter bar height. Go to a 5-inch height of cut, and that jumps to 10% loss.

A Missouri Department of Agricultural Engineering publication offers these tips.

Make sure that knife sections, guards, wear plates and hold-down clips are in good condition and properly adjusted.

Use a ground speed of 2.8 to 3.0 miles per hour. To determine ground speed, count the number of 3-foot steps taken in 20 seconds while walking beside the combine. Divide this number by 10 to get the ground speed in miles per hour.

Use a reel speed about 25% faster than ground speed. For 42-inch-diameter reels, use a reel speed of 11 revolutions per minute for each 1-mile-per-hour ground speed.

The reel axle should be 6 to 12 inches ahead of the cutter bar. Reel bats should leave beans just as they are cut. Reel depth should be just enough to control the beans. A six-bat reel will give more uniform feeding than a four-bat reel.

Complete the harvest as quickly as possible after beans reach 15% moisture content. A pickup type reel with pickup guards on the cutter bar is recommended when beans are lodged and tangled.

Leon Ressler is a Penn State Extension educator based in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania.