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Weed Management

Several weeds are usually cited by growers as problem species. As a general rule, always look for new or unusual weed species in fields. Attempt to cultivate or hand remove these weeds before seeds are produced. Following is some information on the most troublesome weeds with suggestions for control. Specific recommendations for any herbicides mentioned below can be found in the tables that follow.

Common Chickweed (Stellaria media): Common chickweed is a winter annual with an extended germination period. Germination can usually begin in late August or early September and continue into the next spring. Seeds are produced in late spring and early summer. 2,4-D is not effective on this weed and labeled rates of SinbarTM applied at mulching over emerged chickweed are generally ineffective. Cultivation is impractical since the most competitive weeds are in the strawberry row where they also receive good winter protection. Effective control can be achieved with an application of DevrinolTM in late August. Since DevrinolTM does not control emerged weeds, it is important to make the application before emergence. While DacthalTM can also control this weed from seed, residual activity is too short to make this application cost effective.

Field Pansy (Johnny jump-up) (Viola, spp.): This winter annual weed has become a serious problem for many growers. As with chickweed, germination is in the late summer, fall, and early spring. Cultivation is impractical in the strawberry row. Unfortunately, the weeds in the row are often better winter protected and produce more seed than those in the row middles. There is currently no postemergence herbicide control of this weed. The only herbicide that can provide effective control from seed (preemergence) is DacthalTM which should be applied in late summer; however, DacthalTM is rarely used in late summer because of its cost and short residual (4-6 weeks). Only the first flush can be controlled with this method. Until better control options become available, growers will continue to have serious problems with this weed.

Yellow Wood Sorrel (Oxalis, spp.): This weed is perhaps the most troublesome for many strawberry growers. Several species exist. Some are perennials and some are winter annuals. Seed production usually occurs during harvest with the plants “spitting” their seeds across the strawberry rows. This, of course, allows free spreading of this weed across the field. As with the above-mentioned weed species, germination can take place over several months making control difficult. 2,4-D provides good control of oxalis plants if they are small and not hidden under the strawberry foliage. Therefore a late fall application, prior to mulching over dormant strawberry plants, can be at least partially effective. A 2,4-D application prior to renovation is usually not effective since seed dispersal has already taken place. SinbarTM also has some activity on this weed. Splitting the annual use rate of SinbarTM into a renovation and late fall (dormant) application can also provide some control. This weed usually shortens the life of a planting due to its quick spreading habit.

Dandelion (Taraxacum officinale): While dandelion has been cited as a problem weed by many growers, acceptable control is possible. Dandelion is a “simple” perennial weed. Unlike other perennials, it does not spread by rhizomes, has a taproot, and uses seed dispersal as its primary method of reproduction. Seeds germinate in the fall and produce good size plants by November. None of the soil-applied herbicides currently registered in strawberry will control dandelion. The only effective control strategy is a late fall application of 2,4-D. This application must be made after the strawberry plants are dormant (no new growth, reddened leaves). If few plants are present, hand removal may be an option. Be sure, however, to remove the entire tap root or regrowth will occur.

The following Tables (24-26) provide information of on weed management and herbicide effectiveness in strawberries. Weeds can develop resistance to herbicides. The Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) developed a grouping system based on the mode of action of different herbicides. WSSA Group numbers can be used as a tool to choose herbicides in different mode of action groups so mixtures or rotations of active ingredients can be planned to better manage weeds and reduce the potential for resistant species. Any questions about specific weed problems or weed management strategies should be directed to your local University or Extension Specialist. See Integrated Pest Management for Strawberries in the Northeastern United States for details on alternative weed management strategies.