“Advanced” doesn’t always mean better for weed control

A lesson on reading labels and looking for treasure

Boy I thought I had stumbled upon the greatest weed control product in the world. Well, at least for a few minutes it was good … it was great, actually.

Like most farmers, it is important to me to find a herbicide that works. I’m looking for the three “E”s —  easy to apply, effective and economical. Okay, I know killing the weeds that grow through the cracks in my sidewalk isn’t quite the same as controlling weeds over 8,000 or 12,000 acres of cropland, but in my little world it is important.

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I figured it was time to buy a new jug of Roundup, premixed, all ready to go from Canadian Tire’s seasonal section. Without paying much attention, I grabbed Roundup Advanced — I figured to heck with the expense, if it is “Advanced” it must be good … better, even.

So back home, zap, zap, zap and 10 minutes later spraying is complete. It didn’t really smell like Roundup herbicide as I remember, no, it was some other familiar smell, but oh well, maybe that was the “Advanced” part — the bottle label says Roundup.

I was concerned a sudden rain shower not long after I sprayed might affect the Roundup efficacy. But the next afternoon, another bright, sunny day, the sprayed weeds were already withering and browning up, and one more day and they were completely browned — fried. This was terrific.

So, I go out again with Roundup Advanced spraying weeds poking through another sidewalk. There’s that familiar smell again. Finally, I read the Roundup Advanced label and there is no glyphosate active ingredient listed, it’s actually acetic acid. The active ingredient in Roundup Advanced providing “fast action, non-selective control and rapid burndown” was just good ol’ vinegar.

Holy smokes, what a great thing. A natural organic compound providing almost overnight, effective weed control — the world needs to know about this. And then I got thinking if vinegar is so effective on my problem weeds, why isn’t Roundup acetic acid used for field crops?

So, I asked my contacts at Bayer Crop Science and Monsanto what’s the deal with vinegar-based Roundup? Why is the greater farming world being denied this amazing product?

It was Harp Mann at Monsanto who gave me somewhat of a heads-up with this answer: “Just to expand on your question on why not vinegar for agricultural use? Acetic acid is a contact-only herbicide as opposed to having a systemic action. Glyphosate, for example, is a systemic herbicide, where it enters the plant tissue and inhibits any further growth, thus killing a plant including all its growing points.

“Contact herbicides kill only the portion of plant that comes in contact with the herbicide, whereas, any portion of the plant that did not come in contact with the herbicide can regrow in to a full weed (roots, for example),” says Mann.

I still wasn’t convinced, Round up Advanced had worked so well on my sidewalk weeds, or so I thought. I kept checking. But then the “Advanced” began to show its true colors. The weeds were brown for a few days, but a week later the green was coming back. And before long, the sidewalk weeds looked like I had never sprayed — in fact, they may even have been rejuvenated. My excitement over discovering this miracle weed control product suffered its own type of burndown.

So, what have I learned from this experience? Read the label and stick with the tried and true. I guess the Advanced label didn’t really lie. It did do a burndown, it just didn’t appear to kill anything.

I am now restocked with a spray bottle of Roundup glyphosate. The label clearly states “kills the roots.” And this one has something called FastAct foam, so I can tell where I’ve sprayed. It’s all clearly a lesson about taking sidewalk weed control seriously and stop looking for the treasure at the end of the rainbow — it might only be a pickle jar.

About the author

Field Editor

Lee Hart

Lee Hart is editor of Cattleman’s Corner based in Calgary.

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