Is it Time to Consider Harvest Weed Seed Control?

Ah, August — when the weed control failures of spring and early summer creep above the canopy for all to see.

If you’re eyeing pigweeds, bristling with seeds, towering over your soybeans right now, ask yourself this question: Is it time to consider harvest weed seed control? 

The practice comes with a learning curve, but research increasingly suggests it can help farmers significantly reduce the seedbank that feeds their weed infestations each year. 

GROW can help you decide if it’s right for your farm. Our Harvest Weed Seed Control (HWSC) weed management toolbox page contains information on each of the six most common methods to tackle weed seed control at the end of the season: 

  • Chaff lining: In the simplest HWSC method, chaff is funneled into a narrow row as it leaves the combine and is then left in place after harvest. This practice concentrates weed seeds into the row where they compete less with crops, and their exposure to the elements leads to reduced weed emergence.
  • Chaff tramlining: Here, chaff is funneled into narrow rows that align with the wheel tracks of a farmer’s equipment. In a “controlled traffic farming system,” a grower attempts to use only these dedicated wheel tracks – or tramlines – as he moves equipment through the field, which reduces overall compaction across the field and produces an unfavorable environment for weed seeds in the tramlines.
  • Seed impact mills: These mills, also known as weed seed destroyers, are attached to the back of the combine and crush the chaff residue, including weed seeds, before spreading it back across the field. This system returns all residue to the field, which makes it well suited for no-till farming.
  • Chaff carts: Imported from Canada, where they are known as “chaff wagons,” chaff carts follow behind a combine and collect chaff residue, where most weed seeds end up.
  • Bale direct: A baler is attached to the combine, which collects the chaff and straw residue and creates bales that can be sold for livestock feed.
  • Narrow windrow burning: A chute attached to the rear of the combine funnels the chaff and straw residue into a narrow row, where it can be destroyed in a controlled burn.

If you’re looking to learn from the HWSC veterans, consider this course from GROW’s Australian partner, WeedSmart, on the pros and cons of each of these systems. 

If rainy seasons and high moisture are an issue for you, consider this webinar from WeedSmart, on the challenges of using seed impact mills in high rainfall areas. 

And finally, you can catch up on all the news and research happening with harvest weed seed control on the GROW News Page here, including four GROW Farmer Forums on the topic.