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By Kaeley Kindrachuk, Crops Extension Specialist
Used with permission from the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture

Cleavers are not a weed that every producer in Saskatchewan deals with, but the weed is slowly spreading throughout the province. When the first weed survey in 1970 was conducted, cleavers were ranked #40. In the last survey in 2014/15, cleavers had moved up to rank #7. Since it is spreading through the province, it is helpful for producers to know more about it, and how to control it if they find it on their farm. Galium species (cleavers) include two different species, Galium aparine and Gallium spurium. These species are difficult to tell apart, but past research in Saskatchewan has indicated that the dominant species is G. spurium (false cleavers). This species is better adapted to growing on the Prairies whereas G. aparine is better adapted to woodland areas.

The conditions required for cleavers to germinate can range:

Considerations for control with herbicides:

Mechanical Control Options

Since exposing seeds to light may inhibit germination (depending on intensity and duration) and burying seeds encourages germination, tillage may not be a very effective option. Cleavers are not a good candidate for clipping as the weed uses the crop to grow vertically and produces seeds within the canopy (instead of above the canopy). However, they may be a good candidate for harvest weed seed management since the weed seeds tend to be harvested with the grain. The most effective way to lower the seed bank is harvest weed seed management where the weed seeds are destroyed after harvest either through gathering in chaff and removing from the field or destroying the viability of the seed as it is put through seed destructors. This option may gain traction in coming years as weed destructors become more popular in Saskatchewan.

Cleavers were traditionally limited to the Black soil zone, but now are spreading into newer areas in the Dark Brown soil zone each year. Each cleaver plant may produce up to 300-400 seeds, but under optimal circumstances can produce up to 3,500. Cleaver seed is very small and considered a contaminant in seed, so ensure you are using clean seed each spring. Scout fields regularly to keep an eye on the weed populations.

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