Read time: 3 minutes

Does ambient temperature affect herbicide performance?

with Chris Preston, Associate Professor, Weed Management at The University of Adelaide

Temperature affects the absorption, translocation and metabolic degradation of herbicides applied to plants. Herbicides applied under the wrong conditions can appear to fail, however the reason may not be herbicide resistance.

Dr Chris Preston, Associate Professor, Weed Management at The University of Adelaide says most herbicides have a temperature range at which they are most effective in controlling target weeds.

“Applying herbicides outside the optimal temperature range is likely to contribute to a spray failure, even in susceptible populations,” he says. “Alternatively, applying herbicides within the correct temperature range can improve the control in populations known to have a level of resistance to that herbicide.”

Dr Chris Preston suggests testing whole plants rather than seed for responses to a range of post-emergent herbicides. The Quick-Test is conducted in the same growing season as herbicide will be applied so the testing will occur under similar conditions to field conditions.

Dr Preston says the effect of frost on the efficacy of clethodim is a striking example. Spraying clethodim in non-frosty conditions achieves vastly better results than spraying after three days of frost, even on populations that are resistant to this chemical mode of action.

“Combining the optimal temperature with optimal weed size will give the best results possible,” he says. “The current common practice of applying clethodim to tillered ryegrass in the coldest months is not making the best use of this herbicide.”

As a general rule of thumb, Group 1 [A] (fops), paraquat (Group 22 [L]) and glyphosate (Group 9 [M]) are more effective at lower temperatures while Group 1 [A] (dims), atrazine (Group 5 [C]) and glufosinate (Group 10 [N]) are more effective at higher temperatures. However, weeds that are resistant to paraquat become less resistant in warmer temperatures.

“The other implication of this research is the effect of ambient temperature on herbicide test results,” says Dr Preston. “Seed collected in winter and grown out in the glasshouse in summer will be tested for resistance in conditions that are not representative of field conditions when growers are next treating that weed species. The Quick-Test using whole plants overcomes this problem and improves the reliability of herbicide susceptibility testing.”

Maximising herbicide efficacy is a key tactic in the WeedSmart Big 6 integrated weed management toolbox.

How can I get the best performance out of clethodim?

Avoid applying clethodim during frosty periods.

Twice as much clethodim is required to kill susceptible annual ryegrass if the product is applied after three days of frost. Even higher rates are required if the plants have resistance to clethodim.

Planning to apply clethodim for grass control outside the coldest months of June and July, and avoiding night spraying in winter, will see better results in both resistant and susceptible populations, particularly in tillered plants. Clethodim is most active when temperatures are over 20 degrees C.

Weed seed that is tested during summer may return false negative results, which could translate into spray failure in the field the next season.

Twice as much clethodim is required to kill susceptible annual ryegrass if the product is applied after three days of frost. Even higher rates are required if the plants have resistance to clethodim.

When it is it too hot for glyphosate?

Efficacy is much better at 20 degrees C than at 30 degrees C.

Spraying glyphosate resistant barnyard grass at lower temperatures is more effective than under hotter conditions. If barnyard grass is tested for herbicide resistance during the cooler parts of the year it may appear susceptible to the field rate of glyphosate but then when this rate is applied to the population in summer there may be many survivors.

When glyphosate is taken up rapidly it tends to limit its own translocation, which can mean that although symptoms may appear more rapidly in warmer temperatures, plant kill is less reliable.

Which herbicide resistance test should I use?

The weed resistance Quick-Test for post-emergent herbicides.

The Quick-Test involves testing whole plants rather than seed for responses to a range of herbicides and rates. The Quick-Test is conducted in the same growing season as herbicide will be applied so the testing will occur under similar conditions to field conditions. The results of the Quick-Test are available within the same season, potentially giving growers an opportunity to apply an effective weed control tactic before the end of the season. The Quick-Test is not available for many pre-emergent herbicides.

The Quick-Test is available through Plant Science Consulting and results are normally available after four weeks.

More resources

Article first published in July 2017. Reviewed and updated Sept 2023.

Related Articles

Related Articles

View all
Article
News

Dry seeding conditions can challenge pre-emergent herbicides

Dry soil conditions at sowing can impact the efficacy of pre-emergent herbicides including potential risks to crop safety and weed control. Read More...
Article
Ask an Expert

Have we lost some key herbicides in the Northern region?

Dr Michael Widderick says the latest weed survey has uncovered increasing resistance to glyphosate, paraquat and 2,4-D in key weeds. Read More...
Case Study
Case Study

Krui Pastoral Co, Condamine, Qld

East-west sowing is a legacy of the Hamilton's land clearing for livestock, providing paddock-wide weed suppression. Read More...

Webinars

View all
Video
Webinar

Combating resistant annual ryegrass in northern farming systems

In this webinar, we discuss the practical strategies to prevent and manage incursions of resistant annual ryegrass populations in northern cropping systems. Read More...
Video
Webinar

The fate of herbicide residues in soil – why it matters and what research is telling us

Learn about the effect herbicide residues may have on soil microbial activity and on the establishment and growth of crops following the fallow, even after the plant back period. Read More...
Video
Webinar

Combat Velocity® resistant wild radish with the WeedSmart Big 6

AHRI researcher Dr Roberto Busi explains in this webinar how he discovered Velocity® resistant wild radish populations in two paddocks in the northern Wheatbelt of Western Australia. Read More...

Videos

View all
Video
Webinar

Combating resistant annual ryegrass in northern farming systems

In this webinar, we discuss the practical strategies to prevent and manage incursions of resistant annual ryegrass populations in northern cropping systems. Read More...
Video
Webinar

The fate of herbicide residues in soil – why it matters and what research is telling us

Learn about the effect herbicide residues may have on soil microbial activity and on the establishment and growth of crops following the fallow, even after the plant back period. Read More...
Video
Webinar

Combat Velocity® resistant wild radish with the WeedSmart Big 6

AHRI researcher Dr Roberto Busi explains in this webinar how he discovered Velocity® resistant wild radish populations in two paddocks in the northern Wheatbelt of Western Australia. Read More...

Factsheets

View all
Fact Sheet

Understanding pre-emergent herbicides and how they interact with the environment

Understand the chemical properties of pre-emergent herbicides and how they interact with the environment. Read More...
Fact Sheet

Understanding post-emergent herbicide use

Understand how post-emergent herbicides work and how resistance evolves and is expressed, in order to maximise herbicide performance. Read More...
Fact Sheet

Pulse width modulation (PWM) sprayers

Pulse width modulation sprayers can provide more consistent performance, individual section control and turn compensation. Read More...

Subscribe to the WeedSmart Newsletter