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Spurge surge

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March 3, 2020 -  By
Courtesy of Corteva Agriscience

Photo courtesy of Corteva Agriscience.

Lawn care operators should make controlling spurge a priority come spring.

Chester VandenBerg

Chester VandenBerg

Spurge – the weed that can grow just about anywhere. Found in turfgrass, landscape beds, cracks in patios, sidewalks and driveways, it doesn’t take much for this plant to flourish. Chester VandenBerg, territory manager for Corteva Agriscience turf and ornamental business, suggests lawn care operators (LCOs) take the steps to control this warm-season annual with gusto come spring.

“Spurge doesn’t have a specific area it sticks to,” he says. “It is a living organism that is trying to survive, and it will grow anywhere it can.”

The first step to combatting spurge is proper identification, VandenBerg says. With at least 18 different varieties, recognizing the correct type of spurge can be a challenge. The first telltale sign of spurge is the milky sap found inside. The leaves can also help with identification – some have noticeable markings like red spot or veins. The way the stems grow – vertically or horizontally along the ground – can also help LCOs determine the type of spurge they are dealing with. VandenBerg suggests utilizing trusted resources from universities and companies like Corteva to help with identification.

“Googling it is not the right answer,” he says. “Be sure to use documented and vetted resources.”

Photo courtesy of John D. Byrd, Mississippi State University, Bugwood.org

Spotted spurge. Photo courtesy of John D. Byrd, Mississippi State University, Bugwood.org

Once the spurge variety is identified, VandenBerg says LCOs need to act quickly, as spurge has a wide germination window and can germinate when the soil is between 60 degrees and 90 degrees F. The plant is also a prolific seeder, potentially producing hundreds of seeds per plant, so LCOs need to be prepared.

“Spurge can go from seed germination to producing seed in less than five weeks,” VandenBerg says. “If LCOs aren’t out there every few weeks, they can run into plants that have already germinated and produced seed before they can even treat them.”

To control spurge and other broadleaf weeds, VandenBerg says it’s best to start the spring season with a clean treatment site. Pulling weeds, tilling the soil in landscape beds and using postemergent herbicides on turf are good ways to start the season weed free. Mulching landscape beds and ensuring adequate soil moisture and good fertility in turfgrasses are other cultural practices to help control this species. Pulling plants by hand when they are small will minimize the seed deposits.

From there, use of preemergent herbicides beginning in mid-to-late spring is the most effective way to prevent spurge from germinating. However, if spurge has already germinated, applying a postemergent herbicide when the plants are small can offer control. Crew™ specialty herbicide is a granular preemergent product that provides superior control of spurge, VandenBerg says. Crew combines the active ingredients of Dimension® and Gallery® specialty herbicides into an easy to use granular formulation for use in turf and landscape beds. It is safe to use on warm- and cool-season turf and on more than 410 ornamentals. Crew offers control of more than 120 broadleaf and grassy weeds, including crabgrass and other common annual weeds.

“Most varieties of spurge LCOs will see in the field will be controlled by Crew,” says VandenBerg. “It can be used with limited concern of damage to desirable plants, which is huge for LCOs who don’t always have the time to train every technician on different varieties of ornamentals. They want to go in knowing it works and that it’s safe to the plants”

Crew has a watering-in window of 21 days, compared to some other products that need to be watered in within 24 hours. The product is long lasting, up to five months, and is a low-dust formulation that is nonstaining and low in odor.

“Crew is a product that a lot of customers are excited about,” VandenBerg says. “It can be used as a border-to-border solution and fits in any program for LCOs looking to control spurge.”

™®Trademarks of Dow AgroSciences, DuPont or Pioneer, and their affiliated companies and their respective owners. State restrictions on the sale and use of Dimension apply. Consult the label before purchase or use for full details. Always read and follow label directions.

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