The Weed that Binds

The Weed that Binds

Ties That Bind………or ………..Bindweed That Ties……Us Up.

“But a weed is simply a plant that wants to grow where people want something else. In blaming nature, people mistake the culprit. Weeds are people’s idea, not nature’s.” Author Unknown

“I always think of my sins when I weed. They grow apace in the same way and are harder still to get rid of.” Helena Rutherfurd Ely

It has a pretty flower, lush green foliage, is hardy, but it is on the noxious weed lists of at least 18 states. Field Bind Weed ( also known as Creeping Jenny, Small flowered Morning Glory, Barbine, Devil’s Gut, and that d***n weed.) is an introduced perennial plant from the Morning Glory family. It is a native of Europe and probably entered the U.S. accidentally. It was verified on the east coast by 1790, made it to California by 1870, and appeared in Kansas in 1877. When our good neighbors from the North shared it with Oklahoma is uncertain, but needless to say agricultural producers have been dealing with bindweed for a long, long time.

Some of the reasons Bindweed successfully grows in our area are as follows: It grows best in dry to moderately moist soil, survives long extended periods without water, comes from both the seed or root, and has a root system that can extend up to 10 feet into the ground. I have heard, and don’t find hard to believe but can not verify that a Bindweed seed can stay viable up to 20 years in the soil. Wow!

How do we control it? Culturally, mechanically, or chemically? ………………… Yes.

Culturally: You don’t see much bindweed in a grazed pasture, a mature alfalfa field, a multi-year soybean field, or even a mature grain sorghum patch. Cattle will eat bindweed, the multiple harvest in a summer of alfalfa tends to rob bindweed of its chance to produce chlorophyll to survive and Round Up Ready soybeans with multiple passes of glyphosate do much the same as the cutting in alfalfa. In addition alfalfa, soybeans, and grain sorghum all compete well with bindweed for light once they have any size to the plant reducing it’s ability to produce food for itself. So rotation helps in bindweed control.

Mechanically: Intensive tillage can kill young bindweed infestations but you have to till it about every 8 to 10 days. This tillage at such a pace keeps it from producing food to sustain itself, and you should clean your equipment off every time you go to a different field. I had an old timer (now deceased) tell me that if you would sweep plow bindweed when the moon was in the sign of the heart in August, you could kill bindweed permanently every time. Of course he also had me convinced during my formative years that the bottle in a paper bag that he sipped through the day was “heart medicine”.

Chemically: This is the option most producers choose. I think we have tried them all with moderate success, and the most costly is not necessarily the most effective. In a wheat field I would reduce it to three different options.

One would be using 24-d or of Dicamba (a phenoxy) or a combination of the two and simply burn the above ground portion of the bindweed back every time it showed its ugly head. This is very similar to the multiple tillage trips mechanical option in that it robs the bindweed of any sunlight through it’s growing season, basically starving it to death. You can also include glysophate in that tank mix and control grasses growing in that fallow acre. Bindweed is sensitive to phenoxies but not so much glyphosate (Round Up).

Two would be to apply as much Dicamba (Banvel) as your growing wheat crop will allow (usually 4 to 6 ounces/acre) as late in bindweeds growing season as possible, preferably the day before a killing frost. This late application allows the chemical to work on the roots all winter. Caution must be taken with the amount of Dicamba and the size and stage of your wheat at the time.

Three is probably what I consider the biggest bang for the buck and that is to apply 24-d with some amount of Tordon. Tordon seems to have quite a bit of efficacy on bindweed, attacking the root system while the 24-d burns off the top. In a fallow wheat field this application should be done soon after harvest as there needs to be a certain amount of time that is needed for the Tordon to break down before the following wheat crop can be planted. Tordon needs sunlight, heat, and water to break down but the interval between application and planting is usually between 45 to 90 days depending on the amount of Tordon applied.

Even with all of the aforementioned controls, some bindweed will usually struggle through the following year and control measures must be continued, often for several years.

I once sprayed a quarter for bindweed for 5 years in a row always using the newest different chemical or chemical combination every year but the weed to some degree always returned. On the sixth year I suggested we just use the cheapest method and we burnt it off with 24-d and it stayed clean for at least the following 7 years. Go figure!

Maybe we accidentally did it when the moon was in the sign of the heart in August.

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