Each year around 12,000 acres of sunflowers are grown in Arkansas. Most, if not all, of this production is for dove hunting. Weed control is very important to those individuals who plan on getting their limit early on opening day in September each year.
In sunflowers, a combination of tillage, early planting and herbicides provides the best weed control program. Plant in a clean, tilled seedbed or use a burndown application of glyphosate or paraquat to remove existing vegetation in no-till sunflowers. It is important to plant early and not get the seeding rate too high. Our fact sheet FS2150 provides valuable production information on sunflowers grown for dove hunting.
Prior to planting, a preplant-incorporated treatment of Treflan, Prowl or Sonalan can be used to provide residual grass control. After planting, a pre-emergence application of Prowl or Dual can be used for residual grass control.
Broadleaf weed control has always been a challenge for sunflower producers. Spartan herbicide can now be applied pre-emergence (immediately after planting) for residual broadleaf weed control in sunflowers. Do not apply Spartan preplant incorporated or directly to sunflowers after they have emerged. A combination product of Spartan and Dual herbicides in a pre-packaged mix called Authority Elite is now available.
All soil-applied herbicides mentioned above will require a rainfall after application to activate them. There are currently no post-applied broadleaf herbicides for sunflowers, with the exception of Beyond for Clearfield sunflowers (see below). For annual grass and johnsongrass control, a post application of Select or Poast can be used. Crop oil concentrates should be included with these herbicides for optimum activity. Avoid applications of these herbicides during periods of drought.
I have been getting a lot of calls this year on burn-down treatments for sunflowers. Many dove fields are located near production agricultural fields and often burn-down applications are used in sunflower areas. Be aware that many cotton, soybean and corn products may have long plant-back intervals to sunflower. Labels are not always explicit in regards to sunflower plant-back intervals.
Clearfield sunflowers have been commercially available for some time. The term “Clearfield” refers to a plant that has been selected and bred for tolerance to the imadazolinone family of herbicides. These include Scepter, Pursuit, Beyond, Newpath and several others. However, Beyond herbicide is currently the only imadazolinone herbicide registered for use on Clearfield sunflowers.
In university trials, Beyond herbicide has performed fairly well on broadleaf signalgrass, johnsongrass and certain broadleaf weeds. It has not performed well on nutsedge, barnyardgrass, crabgrass and many other weeds commonly found in areas where sunflowers are grown for doves. Excellent moisture and growing conditions are required prior to making postemergence applications of Beyond for optimum activity. These conditions are not always present in dryland sunflower production. Due to the increased seed and chemical costs associated with growing Clearfield sunflowers and the weed control spectrum, their use in growing sunflowers for doves in Arkansas may be cost prohibitive. (I know, I’m kidding — this is hunting, so money does not matter, right?)
A tank-mix of Dual plus Spartan applied pre-emergence followed by a postemergence application of Beyond is a good herbicide program for Clearfield sunflowers. Do not leave out the “pre” just because you’re growing Clearfield, and do not “overload” Clearfield sunflowers with off labeled “IMI” herbicides, because injury can occur.
Always follow current guidelines on hunting regulations in regards to planting and manipulation of food plots.
Consult our fact sheet mentioned above for more information and be safe when hunting season gets here.