Plantain problems


One of the most common weeds, plantains require both herbicides and mechanical efforts for long-term control.

Gil Del Rosario
Gil Del Rosario

Plantains are one of the most common weeds — second only to dandelions — which means virtually all lawn care operators will find them in their clients’ turf and landscape beds. These stubborn perennials come back annually from the same root stock and can be unsightly and troublesome throughout the year.

“Plantains are important to know about because they are going to be found throughout the country — probably all LCOs will run into them,” says Gil Del Rosario, market development specialist for Corteva Agriscience. “With the proper knowledge, LCOs will be able to tip the scale in favor of the turf.”

There are two main types of plantain. Broadleaf plantain has a broader leaf shape and a fibrous root system that competes with turf for water and nutrients. Narrow-leaf plantain, also known as buckhorn plantain, has narrower leaves with prominent parallel veins and a taproot that can access moisture deep in the ground, which helps them thrive in dry conditions. Del Rosario says plantains are an indicator of compacted soil, and the weeds are often found in shaded and high-traffic areas where turf is thin.

“Plantains are an indicator for the LCO about what is happening under the soil,” he says. “Having that knowledge will help an LCO improve the soil profile.”

Broadleaf Plantain (Plantago major). Photo courtesy of Corteva Agriscience.
Broadleaf Plantain (Plantago major). Photo courtesy of Corteva Agriscience.

There are a number of ways to control plantains. The first line of defense is an herbicide program, which Del Rosario says is the least labor intensive option. Turflon® Ester Ultra specialty herbicide is an effective post-emergent product to control plantains on cool-season lawns, while Sapphire® specialty herbicide offers control on warm-season turf. While most combination-type products can offer quick results by burning the leaf tissue, many fail to reach the plantain’s root system, meaning the plant will likely recover. However, for lawn care professionals working on nonresidential turf, Del Rosario says GameOn™ specialty herbicide is a new combination product that offers more complete control of plantain.

Once existing plantain has been treated, Del Rosario suggests the use of Gallery® specialty herbicide on cool- and warm-season lawns to prevent the weed from coming back. This product, as well as Snapshot® specialty herbicide, can also be used to control plantain found in landscape beds.

Del Rosario stresses that mechanical methods are also important to ensure long-term control of plantain. Because of the low-to-the-ground growth habits of plantain, mowing is not an effective means of control. In fact, Del Rosario says mowers can actually spread the weed’s sticky seeds throughout a lawn and even from one client’s lawn to the next. Hand pulling plantain is also difficult because of the plant’s deep roots. Aeration, which loosens the compacted soil, is a mechanical process for improving growing conditions which helps the turf outcompete plantain. A good fertilization program is also important to improve the overall density of the turf and crowd out weeds that are present.

“You can use herbicides but, year after year, LCOs will continue to have struggling turf and thriving plantain,” Del Rosario says. “LCOs also need to incorporate mechanical means to improve the soil profile and help the turf outcompete the plantain. Herbicides, aeration and a good fertilization program can provide a long-term, sustainable strategy against plantains.”

™® Trademarks of Dow AgroSciences, DuPont or Pioneer, and their affiliated companies or their respective owners. GameOn is not registered for sale or use in all states. Contact your state pesticide regulatory agency to determine if a product is registered for sale or use in your state. State restrictions apply on the sale and use of Sapphire, Snapshot and Turflon Ester Ultra apply. Consult the label before purchase or use for full details. Always read and follow label directions. © 2019 Corteva.

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