Field Insights

Central Illinois Growers Face Complex Herbicide-resistant Waterhemp

Collaboration between Syngenta and Ag-Land FS reduces weed pressure via non-herbicide solutions.

When farmers face an agronomic challenge and need answers, they often call their local ag retail expert. For many growers in western Tazewell County, located along the Illinois River in central Illinois, that expert is Travis Rudat, a crop specialist and certified crop advisor for Ag-Land FS, Inc.

Rudat has worked with these farmers for more than a decade and understands their unique needs. In addition to corn and soybeans, they raise pumpkins, popcorn, green beans and other vegetables. These specialty crops add complexity to agronomic systems.

“We work through problems in their fields with a multi-year view because of their crop rotations,” he says. “The impact of problems or mistakes can last more than one year.”

Rudat relies on a regional expert from an ag supplier when he needs help finding solutions. In his area, that person is Blake Miller, agronomic service representative for Syngenta. Miller has provided agronomic support for Syngenta customers in central Illinois for more than a decade. Prior to that, he worked for an ag retailer — focusing on agronomic inputs — and for a seed company.

“When I have tough issues, I call Blake,” Rudat says. “I’ve found that Syngenta products have valuable, credible research behind them, and the same goes for the people. They have years of experience and have worked through many changes in the industry.”

Miller knows when Rudat calls that a grower is experiencing a serious issue. “Travis really understands agronomics and his customers’ needs, so he is a joy to work with,” he says.


When I have tough issues, I call Blake. I’ve found that Syngenta products have valuable, credible research behind them, and the same goes for the people. They have years of experience and have worked through many changes in the industry.

Travis Rudat Crop Specialist and Certified Crop Advisor, Ag-Land FS, Inc

Wrestling With Waterhemp

Together, Rudat and Miller often tackle herbicide-resistant weed issues for growers — specifically, controlling waterhemp in corn. The weed developed resistance to multiple herbicides, including glyphosate, HPPD inhibitors and PPO inhibitors.

“Managing waterhemp requires a two-pass herbicide program with multiple sites of action,” Miller says. “However, we have to pay close attention to herbicide carryover restrictions because of complex crop rotations.”

Rudat adds that depending on markets and prices, growers may decide to add more specialty crop acres at planting.

“My customers need flexibility,” he says. “We have to take that into account when considering crop rotation intervals for herbicides. Working with Syngenta, we gain a larger toolbox.”

To help these growers, Miller constantly refreshes his knowledge of older chemistries. His goal is to find the right options for each situation.

“The growers are playing checkers with their fields, deciding what to plant to balance profitability, soil health and many other factors,” he says. “It’s easy to get stuck in a box with no weed control solutions. We work to avoid that.”

Exploring Management Practices

Miller and Rudat agree that these farmers need all options, both herbicide and non-herbicide, to control waterhemp and other problem weeds.

“Tillage is rarely an option, as many growers have an established no-till system,” Miller says. “That makes them more reliant on herbicides.”

Rudat notes that cover crop acreage is increasing annually, and both agronomists believe this may reduce weed pressure. However, managing cover crops presents another set of challenges.

Growers in the area are learning to maximize the value of cover crops within their complex rotations. As they consider effective timing and methods for planting and termination, they turn to Rudat for answers.

“Blake has been a great resource as we discuss options to help growers manage cover crops,” he says. “I’ve called him with other tough issues, as well.”

For example, with the spread of tar spot in corn across the Midwest, fungicide applications are getting more complicated for Rudat’s growers. Growing specialty crops increases disease control complexity, and Miller provides support to determine the best treatment options and timing.

Prioritizing Relationships

Regardless of the agronomic challenge, Rudat appreciates how Miller works with him and his customers.

“He maintains my relationships with growers and helps me build them, too, as we look for answers to any given challenge,” Rudat says.

Miller’s focus is providing the support Rudat needs.

“I know that Travis owns these relationships with farmers,” Miller says. “When I’m asked to come out to the field, I know it’s bad. I can validate what he sees, and then we work together to find the correct solutions.”

The relationship between Rudat and Miller demonstrates how Syngenta provides effective solutions by working with local, trusted agronomic experts.

  • Mistakes in complex cropping systems can carry over into the next year and the next crop.
  • Glyphosate, HPPD inhibitors and PPO inhibitors are no longer effective at managing waterhemp in central Illinois.
  • New management challenges for effective timing of planting and terminating cover crops continue to emerge as their use increases.