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Marestail in soybeans: Strategies for the best control -
Stacy Campbell
Stacy Campbell

Controlling marestail in soybeans continues to be a big challenge for Kansas no-till producers. Application timing and weed size are critical factors for successful control of this weed that germinates in the fall or early spring. Research has shown that up to 80% of marestail can die over the winter as a result of cold temperatures and/or lack of adequate moisture. In addition, a well-established cover crop in the fall can further reduce marestail establishment and survival and often is quite effective for marestail control. However, the marestail that do survive are often robust and can be difficult to control with herbicides, especially later in the spring. Herbicide options are also limited by widespread resistance to glyphosate and/or ALS-inhibiting (group 2) herbicides in marestail. 

Early spring options

In the early spring, using a growth regulator herbicide such as 2,4-D and/or dicamba is an inexpensive and effective option to control rosette marestail. Dicamba has provided better marestail control than 2,4-D and will also provide some residual control, especially at higher use rates. Recent observations suggest marestail in Kansas will bolt in April throughout most of the state, so timing control before the end of March is recommended. Application of dicamba and 2,4-D in March also generally allows adequate time ahead of planting soybeans to meet required pre-plant intervals.

Using herbicides with longer residual helps control weeds that germinate between treatment and soybean planting. Products that include Canopy EX, Autumn Super, Classic, FirstRate, Sharpen, metribuzin, or Valor can help provide residual control against several broadleaf species, including marestail. However, it is very important to consult and follow the herbicide label guidelines for the required pre-plant intervals prior to planting soybeans.

Pre-plant options

As soybean planting nears, existing marestail plants can become difficult to control because plants will have bolted and be considerably larger. Herbicides to apply as a burndown prior to planting include tank mixes of glyphosate with FirstRate, Classic, Sharpen, Optill, or 2,4-D. Be very careful to follow label directions when using 2,4-D prior to soybean planting. The plant-back restriction ahead of soybean can range from 7-30 days depending on rate and formulation. Sharpen generally provides good marestail control and can be applied any time before soybean emergence. However, it is still most effective if applied before marestail starts to bolt, in a tank-mix with other herbicides, when used with methylated seed oil, and at spray volumes of 15 gallons per acre or more. Elevore is a newer herbicide that has provided similar marestail control to dicamba, but needs to be applied at least 14 days prior to planting.

Pre-plant restrictions for dicamba products such as Clarity, Banvel, and others range from 14 to 30 days depending on product, application rate, rainfall amounts, and geography. However, with the introduction of Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, the new dicamba products Xtendimax, FeXapan, and Engenia have no pre-plant interval restrictions applied ahead of Xtend soybeans and should be some of the more effective treatments for marestail control in that scenario. Xtendimax, FeXapan, and Engenia are still most effective on marestail prior to bolting.

One additional herbicide to consider as a rescue burndown application to control bolting marestail prior to soybean planting is glufosinate (Liberty and others). Although, it would be better to control marestail at an earlier stage of growth, glufosinate has been one of the most effective herbicides to control bolting marestail. Glufosinate also has broad spectrum non-selective activity on other broadleaf and grass species if treated at a young growth stage. Glufosinate is primarily a contact herbicide, so a spray volume of 15 gallons per acre or greater generally provides the most consistent weed control. Glufosinate tends to work best under higher humidity and warm, sunny conditions at application.

Stacy Campbell is an Agriculture and Natural Resources agent for Cottonwood Extension District. Email him at or call the Hays office, 785-628-9430.