Pennsylvania: Marestail Burndown – What Options Are Available?

Marestail burndown in spring prior to crop planting. Photo: Dwight Lingenfelter, Pennsylvania State University

Marestail burndown in spring prior to crop planting. Photo: Dwight Lingenfelter, Pennsylvania State University

Marestail (or horseweed) is growing rapidly this spring across much of the state. Be sure you are scouting your no-till soybean fields this spring and early summer and selecting appropriate control measures. Before you plant soybeans or corn, consider overall marestail management. This weed is mostly a problem in no-till and more of a problem in soybean than corn. It is also a common site along the margins of some fields where herbicide programs are usually more hit or miss.

Much of the marestail in the region is glyphosate resistant and pockets of Group 2 or ALS-inhibitor (Classic, FirstRate, etc.) resistant biotypes also exist. With the widespread herbicide resistant marestail across the state, it is increasingly important to tank-mix herbicides to improve the spectrum of activity for successful control and use multiple modes of action. In most cases, glyphosate + 2,4-D ester applied close to planting will not provide effective control of marestail as it did previously.

Postemergence herbicide options in soybeans are limited and require upfront preparation using either Liberty Link, XtendFlex, or Enlist E3 soybean varieties.

The use of residual herbicides to control marestail that emerges in crop is becoming more common and 6 to 8 weeks of residual control may be necessary for complete control. Residual herbicides that contain flumioxazin (Valor), sulfentrazone (Authority), or metribuzin are effective on germinating marestail and are key for controlling ALS-resistant biotypes. Ideally, burndown applications in April and early May should include a residual herbicide to control later emerging marestail.

However, in some cases, the residual herbicide can impact the utility and timing of the burndown herbicides. If you plan to tank-mix Sharpen and a residual product that includes another Group 14/PPO herbicide (e.g., flumioxazin, sulfentrazone, etc.) you must wait 14 days to plant soybeans. Unfortunately, if all the burndown and residual herbicides are applied in one pass a couple weeks or so ahead of planting, that means two weeks of “wasted” herbicide residual activity.

Once the crop is planted, it needs to have as much residual herbicide available, for as long as possible, to provide a weed-free environment to get established and increase its growth and development for optimal yield. In Xtend or Enlist E3 platforms, registered dicamba or 2,4-D products, respectively, can be tank-mixed with glyphosate and PPO (and/or other) residual herbicides and applied at planting without a wait period.

The following table provides a breakdown of common burndown herbicide options and some factors to consider when using them prior to soybean planting.

Herbicide (rate/A) Effectiveness on marestail Application timing and soybean planting (d=days) Tank mixing with residuals for marestail control Comments
2,4-D ester (1 pint) 70-80%
(>2” tall)
7 d before planting No issues Inexpensive; good on other burndown weeds
2,4-D ester (1 quart) 85-95+%
(3-5” tall)
15 d before planting No issues Inexpensive; good on other burndown weeds
(1 fl oz)


Anytime to 14 d before planting [14 d if mixed with Group 14-PPO (Valor, Envive, Authority, etc.)] Aside from metribuzin and Group 2-ALS herbicides, cannot mix with effective residuals and plant immediately Effective on marestail; otherwise, limited weed control spectrum; spray coverage critical
(1 fl oz)
75-85% 14 d before planting Nothing specifically stated on label Burndown activity may be slowed or reduced under cloudy and/or foggy or cooler weather conditions, or when weeds are growing under drought or other stress conditions
Gramoxone 3L (2 pint) 70-80% (3-5” tall) Anytime No issues; best to tank-mix with 2,4-D + metribuzin Marestail must be <4” tall for effective control; reduced control in cool & cloudy weather; spray coverage is critical
(1 fl oz)
90-95% 14 d before planting No issues Excellent control of marestail but slow activity; otherwise, limited weed control spectrum
Engenia, Xtendimax, Tavium (Xtend) 90-95+% Anytime In most cases, no issues Use in Xtend brand varieties only; spring burndown is the best application time to use this technology in our area; possible drift issues
Enlist One Enlist Duo (Enlist E3) 90-95+% Anytime No issues Use in Enlist E3 soybeans; spring burndown is the best application time to use this technology in our area; possible drift issues
Liberty (36-43 fl oz) <85% in spring Anytime No issues Poor weed control at spring burndown timing; weak on perennials; spray coverage critical; best to apply Liberty/glufosinate post in-crop to control marestail in LibertyLink soybeans

Keep in mind, applying dicamba-containing products like Clarity, Banvel, and generic dicamba-DMA/DGA and then immediately planting Xtend(Flex) soybeans is off-label. For dicamba products like this, the label states on that at least 28 days plus 1 inch of rainfall/irrigation is necessary before any kind of soybean is planted if 1 pint of product is applied. The labels of the specific products may vary slightly but essentially state similar information.

Since Xtend soybeans are not specified on their labels this longer wait period must be applied. Currently, the only dicamba products that can be legally applied near planting or over-the-top in Xtend brand soybeans are Engenia, XtendiMax with Vapor Grip Technology and Tavium plus Vapor Grip Technology. Similar regulations hold true for the use of 2,4-D products in Enlist E3 soybean. Enlist E3 soybean varieties can be planted immediately after an application of Enlist One or Enlist Duo (choline salt) in a burndown program.

Any other 2,4-D product (LV4 ester, amine, etc.) must adhere to the 7-15 day wait period before planting depending on use rate. Once the E3 soybeans emerge only Enlist One or Duo can be applied as an in-crop application, no other 2,4-D products can be sprayed over-the-top and would be in violation of the Technology Use Agreement.

As previously mentioned, marestail is generally more easily managed in corn than in soybean. However, here are a few considerations for successful control in corn. Effective burndown programs usually include, Sharpen + glyphosate; Gramoxone + 2,4-D + atrazine or simazine; and/or Elevore.

Make sure to include atrazine for residual control of germinating marestail seedlings. Aside from atrazine and Balance Flexx/Corvus, no other active ingredients provide effective residual control of this weed in corn.

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