Now’s the time to control downy brome in winter wheat |

Now’s the time to control downy brome in winter wheat

NORTH PLATTE, Neb. – Producers planting winter wheat back where wheat was harvested this summer, or using a summer fallow system, should make sure to have good control of downy brome in their fields.

“We used to have to rely on crop rotations and tillage practices to control downy brome,” said Bob Klein, cropping systems specialist at UNL’s West Central Research and Extension Center. “Now we have some herbicides to help, but we still recommend crop rotations.”

Producers should kill downy brome before seeding wheat, Klein said. He advised against seeding early because brome will come up with the wheat and get well established during the winter.

Several treatments now available, such as Maverick and Olympus, work well to kill downy brome if they’re applied in the fall shortly after it emerges.

“If we’re lucky enough to get a rain shortly after application, the plants take up the herbicides, not just into the foliage, but also into the roots,” Klein said.

Downy brome that has overwintered is much harder to kill. In spring, instead of getting 80 to 95 percent control, producers will usually get 50 to 60 percent control. The dry fall last year resulted in late emergence of downy brome, so there was a good stand of downy brome seedlings in the spring. Chemicals like Maverick and Olympus gave good results on those young grasses even in the spring, since the downy brome emerges over the winter.

“These would not be typical result for spring application,” Klein cautioned. “When the plant tillers, it’s much more difficult to control.”

Producers who cultivate their fallow ground should do another tillage operation, like rod weeding or sweeps, before seeding to remove any downy brome that’s coming up and still leave a firm seed bed for the wheat.

Producers who fallow with herbicides should make another application before planting. Stay away from 2-4-D or other herbicides not normally used for downy brome. A mix of broadleaf weeds make the addition of these other herbicides tempting, but their use will delay seeding and that might make planting later than optimum. Small broadleaves can be effectively killed with the glyphosates.

For more information on controlling downy brome, go to, click on “Wheat Production” in the left menu bar and then on “Weed Control.” In the list of publications is one entitled, “Downy Brome Control.” That link takes you to NebGuide G422.


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