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Why you need to use a preemergence herbicide on sugarbeet fields in 2018

Tom Peters, Extension sugarbeet agronomist

Waterhemp seedlings. Note rowboat-shaped
cotyledons, long and narrow true leaves (lanceolate)
that are waxy and dark green. There are no hairs
on the plant.
Waterhemp is the most widespread weed control challenge in sugarbeet. Growers attending the 2018 technical seminars and participating in the Turning Point survey of weed control and production practices reported waterhemp as their most important weed control challenge on 237,600 acres or over 35% of sugar beet fields in Minnesota and eastern North Dakota.

Sugarbeet planting date dictates the weed control strategy for waterhemp control. In 2017, many acres of sugarbeet were planted between April 10 and April 20. Early planting enables sugarbeet to grow to the 2-lf stage, or the sugarbeet growth stage when Dual-Magnum, Outlook, and Warrant is applied, before waterhemp gemination and emergence in mid-May (POST to sugarbeet, PRE to waterhemp). Split lay-by application of chloroacetamide herbicides or first application at the 2-lf stage followed by a repeat application 14 to 21 days later is the preferred approach for waterhemp control for early planted sugarbeet (Table 1).

Table 1. Waterhemp control in sugarbeet by planting date.
Planting date Recommendation
Plant sugarbeet in April Split lay-by application (early postemergence / postemergence) of chloroacetamide herbicides applied at 2-lf sugarbeet fb 6-lf sugarbeet.
Dual Magnum and/or ethofumesate PRE followed by a split lay-by application at 2 to 4-lf stage fb 6 to 8-lf stage.
Single lay-by application when sugarbeet are at the 2-lf stage or greater.
Plant sugarbeet in May Dual Magnum and/or ethofumesate PRE followed by a split lay-by.
Either Continue to scout fields for late germinating waterhemp in late June and July.
Either Be prepared to rescue with Betamix + ethofumesate, UpBeet + ethofumesate or Betamix + UpBeet (be aware of resistant biotypes).
Either Cultivate.

Adapting your waterhemp control strategy

April sugarbeet planting is unlikely in 2018. It means we must adapt our waterhemp control strategy since sugarbeet will not reach the sugarbeet 2-lf stage by May 15 or in time for lay-by application of chloroacetamide herbicides and before waterhemp germination and emergence.

It means we must use a preemergence herbicide. Which ones? What are the pros and cons of each option?

Table 2. Strengths and weaknesses of preemergence herbicides for waterhemp control in sugarbeet.
Herbicide Rate (pt/A) Strengths Weaknesses
Ro-Neet SB 4 to 5.3 Sugarbeet safety Fair to Good waterhemp control
Ethofumesate 6 to 7.5 Sugarbeet safety,
good waterhemp control, especially in
high OM soils,
8-10 weeks waterhemp control
Nurse crops do not tolerate
high rates of ethofumesate
Ethofumesate 2 to
4 weeks waterhemp control Wheat and barley do not tolerate ethofumesate
Dual Magnum 0.5 2-3 weeks waterhemp control Generally safe to nurse crops

Preemergence herbicides do not provide season-long waterhemp control. Waterhemp biotypes resistant to glyphosate and UpBeet make postemergence waterhemp control (even rescue control) a risky strategy at best. Dual Magnum, Outlook, and Warrant lay-by following PRE are our best options for waterhemp control.
bar graph
Figure 1. Number of good, fair and poor estimates of
waterhemp control across herbicides by application timing,
summed across evaluations, locations and years.

Across years, application timing is more important than herbicide choice for waterhemp (Figure 1). Waterhemp control treatments were ranked in numerical order from greatest to least control. Clusters were titled ‘good’, ‘fair’, and ‘poor’; corresponding to 80% or greater waterhemp control, 80 to 65% waterhemp control, and 65 to 40% waterhemp control, respectively. Herbicides were combined and grouped by application timing into four classes: lay-by, split lay-by, PRE fb lay-by, and PRE fb split lay-by. Data indicates use of a preemergence herbicide fb a chloroacetamide herbicide applied lay-by or applied split lay-by provided the most consistent waterhemp control across locations and years.


  • Late spring requires use of a preemergence herbicide after planting when waterhemp is a production challenge.
  • Use a chloroacetamide herbicide split lay-by with glyphosate and ethofumesate at the 2-4 lf sugarbeet stage followed by the 6-8 leaf sugarbeet stage.
  • Control waterhemp escapes when they are small, less than 4-inches tall. Be aware that PowerMax and UpBeet do not control resistant biotypes; Betamix is in short supply.
  • You may need to cultivate to control waterhemp escapes.

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  1. You keep using the term lay by for your herbicide application. I thought the universal term meant the following: Layby Application: Applied with or after the last cultivation of a crop. From Weed Society of America. Revised March 1999. I remember using the term when we used to cultivate corn, as in spraying the row when cultivating. Has this term been redefined or am I the only one not cultivating my beets?

    1. You make an excellent observation and you are absolutely correct, layby is the last pass before row closure.

      Allow me to take you through our logic process:
      -preemergence is before crop and weeds emerge
      -postemergence is after crop and weeds emerge
      -our best waterhemp control program is pesticide application using soil residual herbicides applied postemergence to sugarbeet and preemergence to waterhemp.
      -its confusing since its 'in-between'
      -the term 'lay-by' is used (it has been adopted/coined) to describe this application. Is it correct use of terminology? No...and you referenced WSSA to prove your point. However, I find that its easier to go along with the incorrect use of a phrase than to create confusion.

      I have another example. Media uses the phrase 'super weeds' to describe something.... usually weeds that are resistant to multiple families of herbicide including glyphosate. The phrase is not accurate according to WSSA but it is used anyway and weed scientists have come to accept it rather than to add to the confusion.

      I trust my explanation helps.

      Tom Peters


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