Crop & Pest Report


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White Cockle/Nightflowering Catchfly Control (06/16/16)

Question: I have a customer who has patches of white cockle in soybeans. Any suggestions? Will 40 fl oz. /A of Roundup get it? If I recall, Raptor has pretty good activity. What's your thoughts?

White Cockle/Nightflowering Catchfly Control

Question: I have a customer who has patches of white cockle in soybeans. Any suggestions? Will 40 fl oz. /A of Roundup get it? If I recall, Raptor has pretty good activity. What's your thoughts?

Answer: White cockle is in the Pink Family (Caryophyllaceae), is a biennial or short lived perennial and can be confused with its more prevalent relative, night-flowering catchfly, which is an annual. Both plants are found more in the northern part of the state. Stems on both plants are erect, branched, and sticky. Seeds of both species are borne in pods that are swollen and have white to pink flowers. Distinguishing differences between small plants of both species may be difficult if they both germinate from seed. Dig up the seedlings and if the shoots arise from under-ground roots then it is white cockle, since it is perennial in nature. Pods of night-flowering catchfly are sticky, whereas seed pods of white cockle are not.

White cockle is a persistent weed in hayfields and no-till fields and it seems to be an increasing problem based on recent questions. Here are a few key points about white cockle and some management comments.

  1. White cockle’s name is officially white campion, but you will most likely still see it as white cockle on some herbicide labels if it is listed.
  2. White cockle’s life cycle is a biennial or short-lived perennial. It grows from the same crown and does not spread by roots. It is very successful in establishing from seed that germinates in either spring or fall.
  3. Identification: White cockle seedlings are yellowish-green and soon grow into a rosette with opposite leaves with soft hairs. As plants get older, they may have a grayish-green color because of the hairs. The opposite leaf arrangement is easier to see on the stems that produce the showy white flowers. Flowers have 5 notched petals.

Odd fact: White cockle plants have either male or female flowers. The female flowers swell and develop into the familiar round seedpods.

Important fact: White cockle, like many other weeds in the pink family, is not susceptible to 2,4-D. Therefore, 2,4-D used alone in burndown treatments or 2,4-D used for weed control in wheat is not effective unless mixed with another herbicide.


Management: White cockle generally is not a problem in spring-tilled fields. In no-till fields, herbicides are generally most effective in the fall. In particular, glyphosate will be more effective in the fall and should be used at a minimum of 0.75 lb. ae/A. In the spring, glyphosate will give good suppression at this rate, but control may not be complete. The addition of Valor to glyphosate in the spring may increase glyphosate’s control of existing plants. Valor’s residual activity will help to control emerging seedlings. Research has shown success in controlling white cockle in the spring with Gramoxone + Sencor on a warm, sunny day, but only had good suppression on a cooler, cloudy day. Sencor enhances Gramoxone activity. The residual activity of Sencor adds to control of emerging seedlings.

If white cockle is not controlled before crop planting, many of the plants will likely be starting to or flowering by the time postemergence applications are made. In Roundup Ready soybeans or corn, glyphosate can be used to suppress these plants. However, no herbicide will control white cockle adequately in conventional soybeans. In corn, dicamba-based products (i.e. Banvel, Clarity, Status) should suppress larger plants and kill seedlings. A preemergence application of atrazine should also prevent white cockle from emerging in corn in the spring.

Chemical control of both white cockle and night-flowering catchfly is difficult but more difficult with white cockle being a biennial/perennial. Herbicides that list control of night flowering catchfly on the label are Ally Extra, dicamba, and Harmony/Express (thifensulfuron/tribenuron) premixes. UpBeet controls night-flowering catchfly in sugarbeet and Huskie may control it in small grains. There are no herbicides that list white cockle as control or suppression. A Saskatchewan Agriculture Fact Sheet on white cockle written in 1981 recommended dicamba at 1.2 to 1.8 qt/A for control of patches in non-crop area.

The Canadian weed guide show Banvel + 2,4-D, bromoxynil + MCPA, and Harmony Extra for cow cockle, another annual relative. For night-flowering catchfly their guide shows the same products as the Green Bible = bromoxynil + MCPA, so it appears there are very few choices for control or suppression of night-flowering catchfly and none for white cockle.

Overall, it is probably best to scout fields that might have white cockle in the fall. These fields might be those that previously had cockle or are hay fields going to corn or soybeans. If white cockle is found, a fall treatment of glyphosate should remove many plants and limit the problem the following spring. Also, plan programs that control spring seedlings by using either a residual preemergence herbicide or an effective postemergence herbicide. Otherwise, these little seedlings will develop into the rosettes that are more difficult to control in the fall or the next year.

Rich Zollinger

Extension Weed Specialist

This site is supported in part by the Crop Protection and Pest Management Program [grant no. 2017-70006-27144/accession 1013592] from the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed are those of the website author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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