Atrazine has been the most widely used herbicide in North American processing sweet corn for decades; however, increased restrictions in recent years have reduced or eliminated atrazine use in certain production areas. The objective of this study was to identify the best stakeholder-derived weed management alternatives to atrazine in processing sweet corn. In field trials throughout the major production areas of processing sweet corn, including three states over 4 yr, 12 atrazine-free weed management treatments were compared to three standard atrazine-containing treatments and a weed-free check. Treatments varied with respect to herbicide mode of action, herbicide application timing, and interrow cultivation. All treatments included a PRE application of dimethenamid. No single weed species occurred across all sites; however, weeds observed in two or more sites included common lambsquarters, giant ragweed, morningglory species, velvetleaf, and wild-proso millet. Standard treatments containing both atrazine and mesotrione POST provided the most efficacious weed control among treatments and resulted in crop yields comparable to the weed-free check, thus demonstrating the value of atrazine in sweet corn production systems. Timely interrow cultivation in atrazine-free treatments did not consistently improve weed control. Only two atrazine-free treatments consistently resulted in weed control and crop yield comparable to standard treatments with atrazine POST: treatments with tembotrione POST either with or without interrow cultivation. Additional atrazine-free treatments with topramezone applied POST worked well in Oregon where small-seeded weed species were prevalent. This work demonstrates that certain atrazine-free weed management systems, based on input from the sweet corn growers and processors who would adopt this technology, are comparable in performance to standard atrazine-containing weed management systems.
Nomenclature: Atrazine; dimethenamid; mesotrione; tembotrione; common lambsquarters, Chenopodium album L.; giant ragweed, Ambrosia trifida L.; morningglory species, Ipomea spp.; velvetleaf, Abutilon theoprasti Medik.; wild-proso millet, Panicum miliaceum L.; sweet corn, Zea mays L.