We asked companies, weed specialists and dealers to judge last year's crop of new herbicides. Here's the scouting report.

Tracking the multitude of available herbicide options is a gargantuan task. Yet those corn and soybean growers who make the effort stand to profit; the array of selections fits nearly any pocketbook or control need. The key is identifying the solutions best suited to your needs. To help you with that decision-making process, here's a product follow-up on last year's new herbicide options and the outlook for them this spring.

Soybean products A winning Touchdown is exactly what Zeneca Ag Products hopes to score with this herbicide, which is targeted for the glyphosate-tolerant soybean market. Touchdown, formally introduced last June, is a systemic, nonselective herbicide that controls 125 species of emerged annual and perennial grasses, broadleaves and sedges. Chuck Foresman, technical business lead for the product, says Touchdown provides effective weed control and, in many cases, quicker activity than Roundup.

"It definitely seems to work a bit quicker than Roundup," says Mike Merchant, crop salesperson and agronomist for Farm Services, Garrison, IA. "It worked great for us last year."

Bill Johnson, University of Missouri extension weed specialist, notes, and Merchant concurs, that growers may see some speckling or yellowing on their soybeans following application - what Zeneca terms "leaf flash" - but that yield will not be negatively affected. "It's benign, and there is no negative impact at all on yield," Foresman adds.

For optimum control results, Zeneca recommends applying Touchdown within 30 days of planting, preferably before weeds reach 6 in. An application consists of 1.6 pints/acre, or 1 gal. of Touchdown/5 acres. Cost ranges from $6 to $12/acre, depending on the rate used.

Also, Foresman encourages soybean growers to use a foundation soybean herbicide program, especially in heavily infested fields, to help reduce the potential yield impact from tough weeds.

Johnson agrees. He encourages growers to invest in sound control measures that can pay off despite the tough economics farmers face this year. "Cutting $10 from your herbicide costs could take $30 off your bottom line," Johnson says. "It only pays to cut corners if you can make money."

FirstRate, from Dow Agro-Sciences, offers soybean growers a solid broadleaf weed-control option along with application flexibility, says Tony Klemm, Midwest resource manager for the company. Conventional applications of FirstRate include a 0.6-oz./acre rate as a soil-applied product for around $14/acre, or a 0.3-oz./acre rate for postemergence applications at a cost of $7/acre. The product offers flexibility for use with most pre and post tankmix products, including glyphosate, for added residual control.

The benefits with FirstRate, Klemm says, are excellent weed control with zero crop response. Morningglory, ragweed, sunflower and velvetleaf are major target weed species for this product.

"For giant ragweed, it's the product I'd use, based on results we've seen here," says Tom Bauman, extension weed specialist at Purdue University.

Bauman encourages growers to determine whether any ALS-resistant giant and common ragweed are present in their fields, before applying FirstRate. "On the vast majority of fields, though, this product is still a great fit," he says. Bob Hartzler, Iowa Sate University extension weed specialist, agrees and adds, "Giant ragweed is a serious problem in eastern Iowa, but FirstRate does a nice job on it."

Klemm says that, in a potential ALS scenario, you should "make sure you know ALS resistance is the issue. In those cases, a tankmix of FirstRate with a non-ALS compound such as glyphosate or diphenyl-ether provides the needed control."

Corn products Distinct herbicide from BASF Agricultural Products reached a sold-out position in 1999, its introductory year, says Dan McGuire, market manager for corn products. Positioned as a stand-alone postemergence broadleaf herbicide by the company, Distinct combines new active ingredient diflufenzopyr with dicamba. Diflufenzopyr, an auxin transport blocker, combined with dicamba, a synthetic auxin, work together to provide a synergistic effect in controlling weeds, McGuire says. Although Distinct is registered for a wide window of application on 4- to 24-in. corn, the company encourages early-season weed control. Cost is approximately $11 to $13/acre.

"Early-season weed control is essential to protect corn yields, and that's why we'd like to see Distinct used in a 4- to 10-in. window," McGuire says.

Some ag chemical dealers did see some crop response from Distinct last year. The response seemed either to be hybrid specific or, in some cases, where the product was applied in corn that was too tall, says Brian Weller, crop production specialist for Central Lakes Co-op, Willmar, MN. "If the weather conditions are really good at application time this year, I'll probably back off on the additives to counter that," he says. "The product worked really well; it nailed Canada thistle."

Gary Kermode, sales manager for Inness Farm Supply, Galesburg, IL, says that last year he recommended Frontier and Guardsman, followed by Distinct. "The 4-oz. rate of Distinct along with some atrazine added in seemed to work best here," he recalls. "It worked particularly well on waterhemp."

In 1999, BASF also introduced Celebrity herbicide, which has been upgraded this year to new Celebrity Plus. For more information on Celebrity Plus, see our December 1999 issue (page 4) or call up the story "Astute buyers profit" under the December 1999 heading at www.farmindustrynews.com. Also in that issue is extensive information on Balance from Rhone-Poulenc and Epic from Bayer Corporation.

Corn growers placed new Aim herbicide from FMC on more than 1 million acres in 1999. And for 2000 the company drastically reduced the price, from $4 down to $2.50/acre, to gain entry into more post corn tankmix applications. And it is now labeled for burn-down use as a tankmix partner with Roundup or Touchdown to prepare a field for no-till planting of corn or soybeans.

At 0.3 oz./acre, Aim offers control of velvetleaf, lambsquarters, pigweed, nightshade, waterhemp and morningglory. "Velvetleaf is a strength here for Aim," notes Fred Roeth, University of Nebraska extension weed specialist. "We're using it in a tankmix with dicamba and atrazine to broaden the weed spectrum controlled."

In Indiana, Bauman says field results showed good control of both velvetleaf and cocklebur at a cost-effective investment.

In Missouri, Bill Johnson says growers benefit from the control Aim offers on emerged waterhemp. "That's a serious problem here," he says. "Custom applicators told me they were pleased with the results they saw in fields."

NorthStar, from Novartis Crop Protection, was in a sold-out position in 1999, and sales look strong for 2000. A premix of the active ingredients primisulfuron (found in Beacon) and dicamba, NorthStar offers control of 31 broadleaf weeds such as velvetleaf, pigweed and cocklebur, and five grasses.

The herbicide was targeted for use north of I-80 in its first year. However, crop manager Rusty Wendt says customer experience last year indicated that NorthStar also offers good weed-control results on important weeds in corn-growing areas between I-70 and I-80, including parts of Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri and Ohio. NorthStar sales and use will expand into those areas this year.

The company recommends using NorthStar, after a soil-applied grass herbicide, at a rate of 5 oz./acre in 4- to 12-in. corn. Kermode says that in his area last year, Illinois growers used NorthStar following Dual in a two-pass program. "We added in some atrazine with very good results, particularly on waterhemp," he reports.

"The flexibility of tankmix partners is a plus for NorthStar," adds Aaron Hager, University of Illinois extension weed specialist. "We saw it, with atrazine added in, down some good-sized broadleaf weeds here."

Cost of NorthStar is approximately $9 to $10/acre. And the 5-oz./acre rate contains the equivalent of 4 oz. of dicamba and 0.5 oz. of Beacon.

Leadoff from Dupont enters its second full year of use this spring. A premix of dimethenamid (Frontier) and atrazine, Leadoff offers application flexibility and can be used at any time from preplant through early postemergence. The company says the product offers good residual control of a broad spectrum of grass and broadleaf weeds when used in a two-pass program with Basis Gold. Cost is approximately $20/acre at the 5-pint/acre rate.

Liberty ATZ had a successful year in 1999, says Jeff Springsteen, product lead for Aventis Crop Science. The product goes on LibertyLink corn at an average of 40 oz./acre, essentially 24 oz. of Liberty with 1 lb. of atrazine.

Last year, about half of the available Liberty ATZ was used in a one-pass total post program, and the remaining 50% was applied following a reduced rate of a preemergence herbicide. "We're recommending it in a planned post program," Springsteen says. "We feel that's the best fit."

Liberty ATZ works best when weeds are 2 to 4 in. and actively growing. Where heavy infestations of waterhemp occur, adding 3 to 4 oz. of Clarity or Distinct may enhance control.

For heavy populations of Canada thistle, the company recommends including a reduced rate of Hornet.

Illinois' Hager says the atrazine in Liberty provides good residual, depending somewhat on the weed species. "We saw excellent smartweed control in our field tests but not as strong residual results with waterhemp," he says. "That's most likely due to the fact that waterhemp germinates much longer into the growing season than most other annual weed species."

A $10 rebate for Liberty ATZ is available to growers who enroll with Aventis by April 15. Springsteen says the rebate will bring growers' total Liberty ATZ investment down to approximately $17.50/acre.