Weeds and Bear Control Answers

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This week I would like to share two questions that were recently asked at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Caldwell County Center. I hope you find these questions and answers helpful. If you have specific questions not answered here, please contact me and my team at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Caldwell County Center.

Question: We grow corn that we grind and feed to our animals. The last few years we’ve had a weed problem in our cornfield. Morning glories and cockleburs are becoming a big problem. What can we do?

Answer: The old standby for weed control is cultivation. However, this becomes less practical with larger acreages. Cultivation also destroys soil structure and burns up soil organic matter.

Crop rotation can help with some weeds. However, both morning glories and cockleburs produce hard seeds. Hard seeds can lay dormant in the soil for many, many years waiting for the right conditions. Crop rotation will have little effect on these weeds.

Herbicides are an option. An approach I recommend is to control annual weeds early with a preemergence herbicide. Atrazine is the most commonly used preemergence herbicide for broadleaf weed control in corn. It controls most annual broadleaf weeds including morning glories and cockleburs. Atrazine should be applied immediately after planting.

Once the corn is up, scout for weeds. If you do have morning glories and cockleburs germinating, dicamba will control them. Dicamba is the active ingredient in the herbicides Banvel, Clarity, and Distinct.

Dicamba can be applied over top of corn from the spike growth stage to corn that is 8 inches tall. Drop nozzles can be used to direct the spray to the soil surface and away from the corn. Using drop nozzles extends the window of application to corn that is 36 inches tall. Once corn is 36 inches tall, it can effectively shade and outcompete weeds for light, water, and nutrients.

One last thought, the most common reason for weed control failure, even if the right herbicide product is selected, is equipment failure. This includes poor calibration or damaged nozzles. An annual sprayer tune-up prior to planting season avoids these problems.

Question: How can I protect my beehives from bears?

Answer: I had a recent discussion with Danny Ray, District 8 Management District Biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission about this topic. When I have wildlife questions, I like to talk to the experts. Danny shared a website with me, bearwise.org. BearWise is a site developed by bear experts from the Southeastern states and is supported by the Southeastern Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies. Danny is a member of the BearWise team.

This site offers tips for backpackers, hikers, vacation cabin renters, and farmers. There are an estimated 70,000 bears in the southeast and 18,000 bears in North Carolina, more than any other southeastern state.

Livestock farmers can have bear problems. Chickens, rabbits, and other small livestock can be big attractants for bears. Mature cattle are not vulnerable to black bears, but newborn calves can be at risk. And probably most at risk are bees. Bears love honey and bee brood (larval bees).

The recommendation is to locate hives more than 50 yards from the treeline and either use tie-down straps or enclose the bee yard with an electric fence. The tie-down straps have been successfully used in Kentucky. Strong cargo tie-down straps that secure hives to a concrete foundation or platform will thwart bears’ attempts to move or wreck them.

More common in North Carolina is the use of electric fences. Fences can be energized by small solar units. The solar units eliminate the need for plug-in electrical power, making them easy to setup anywhere. A good ground rod is essential for the energizer to work properly. The fence should have 6 wires and be 52 inches tall. Additional details about bear fence and living with bears can be found at BearWise.

A simple electric fence helps this beekeeper sleep better knowing his hives are protected from bears. (credit Seth Nagy)

A simple electric fence helps this beekeeper sleep better knowing his hives are protected from bears. (credit Seth Nagy)

For answers to your agriculture questions, call the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Caldwell County Center at 828-757-1290 or visit us online anytime.