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Waterhemp Now a Manitoba Weed

Can you identify the plants in the two pots below?

waterhemp-and-redroot-pigweed

The plants on the right are redroot pigweed (Amaranthus retroflexus); the plants on the left are waterhemp (Amaranthus tuberculatus).

Unfortunately, the need to distinguish between these closely related weed species has become a reality for Manitoba producers and agronomists since waterhemp was found in the province in the fall of 2016. Suspect plant specimen collected from a soybean field in the RM of Taché was verified as waterhemp by staff with the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Collection of Vascular plants in Ottawa.  Waterhemp occurs in neighbouring states and provinces, including Minnesota, North Dakota and Ontario.

Both species thrive in agricultural fields where they compete with crops for nutrients, moisture and light. Waterhemp has no hairs on its stem or leaves, which can be used to distinguish it from redroot pigweed when plants are small.  The lack of hairs give waterhemp leaves a ‘glossy’ look unlike that of the ‘dull’ green leaves of redroot pigweed.  Also, waterhemp leaves are lanceolate in shape (longer than they are wide) compared to the more ovate leaves of redroot pigweed.  Colour is not a reliable identifying characteristic since both species can be green, red or variations of the two colours.

Mature waterhemp plants tend to be more branched than redroot pigweed. And unlike redroot pigweed, which has male and female flowers on the same plant, waterhemp has separate male and female plants.  Waterhemp inflorescence are long, slender and vary in colour compared with the compact, prickly inflorescence of redroot pigweed.  Like most pigweeds, waterhemp is a prolific seed producer with up to a million seeds per plant (under ideal conditions).

Waterhemp populations resistant to group 2, group 9 (glyphosate) and group 2+9 exist throughout the US, including Minnesota and North Dakota, and in Ontario. Seed from one of the plants found in Manitoba have been sent to Ontario for resistance testing.

Information on waterhemp will be added to Manitoba Agriculture’s weeds webpage shortly (http://www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/crops/weeds/) and will be included at the Weed Seedling Identification Day (hosted by the Manitoba Weed Supervisors Association).  Manitoba Agriculture staff will conduct a waterhemp surveillance program in and around the RM of Taché in 2017.

Additional information on waterhemp is available at: http://www.extension.purdue.edu/extmedia/BP/gwc-13.pdf (excluding herbicide recommendations).

waterhemp-tone-ag-consulting

Photo: Waterhemp in Manitoba, Tone Ag Consulting

Submitted by: Jeanette Gaultier, Provincial Weed Specialist, Manitoba Agriculture

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