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What's in a Name?

May 8, 2003

An article in issue no. 2 (April 4, 2003) of the Bulletin described and listed many of the commercially available corn and soybean herbicide premixes. This article went into some discussion about the different names with which a herbicide could be identified. We thought it might be useful to revisit the three names that can identify a herbicide.

Trade Name

Very simply, the trade name is the name the product is sold as. Some examples of trade names include Valor, Raptor, Yukon (examples for the younger readers), Basagran, Cannon, Lorox Plus (for those readers with a few years of experience under their belt), Randox, Premerge Plus, and Ramrod (for those more "seasoned" readers). These names are generally trademarked by the manufacturer so that no other company can use them. They are frequently "catchy" names that are supposed to appeal to the buyer (you can decide whether they actually do or not). Sometimes, manufacturers use trade names that fit into a theme (for example, a "western" theme with names such as Roundup, Harness, Lasso, Lariat), while other times trade names may give some indication of the original idea for the product (the callistemon plant appears to have inspired the trade name Callisto). Although you may sometimes wonder how they came up with that name, a great deal of research and planning goes into selecting a trade name for a new active ingredient. Trade names come and go, and sometimes are "recycled," such as Option, which was once the trade name of a soybean herbicide but is now the trade name of a corn herbicide. Thus, you cannot always rely on the trade name to know what is in the product that controls the weeds.

Common Name

Common names are very useful, in that a common name is unique to a particular active ingredient. Common names often are listed on the product label, usually appearing in the active ingredient(s) section. Flumioxazin, imazamox, and halosulfuron plus dicamba are the common names of the active ingredients contained in Valor, Raptor, and Yukon, respectively. Although more than one trade name may identify a particular active ingredient, common names remain constant regardless of the trade names. Let's use the example of Authority, Spartan, and Blanket, trade names of three commercially available herbicides. Although these trade names are different, they all contain the same active ingredient, with the common name sulfentrazone. Put another way, you could apply the active ingredient sulfentrazone as Authority, Spartan, or Blanket.

Chemical Name

Unless you retained a great deal of information from high school or college chemistry courses, herbicide chemical names may not be as useful to you as trade names or common names. Similar to common names, chemical names are unique to a particular active ingredient. Chemical names describe the chemical composition of an active ingredient. For example, Salvo is the trade name of a herbicide that contains the active ingredient known by the common name 2,4-D. The chemical name of 2,4-D is 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid, a name that arguably is less well recognized than the common name 2,4-D.

By now you might be wondering why you should learn common names of herbicides. What benefit could you get from this? Here are a few examples of when knowing common names might be useful.

Herbicide premixes. Components of herbicide premixes are rarely identified on the label by trade names of their respective active ingredients. Rather, the components are usually identified by their common names (in some cases they are identified by chemical names, so keep that college chemistry textbook handy). For example, the Hornet label doesn't list Python and Stinger as the components; rather, the label lists the components as flumetsulam (Python) and clopyralid (Stinger).

Generic products. Several popular active ingredients are off-patent, and generic products containing these active ingredients are available. Trade names such as Silhouette, Rascal, and Credit may not be as well known as the common name of their active ingredient, glyphosate.

Herbicide rotation. If you rotate herbicides to delay the onset of herbicide-resistant weed biotypes, selection of herbicides based on trade names alone may not always be the best way to go. For example, if you use Roundup WeatherMax in glyphosate-resistant corn and switch to GlyStar Plus for use in soybeans, you have actually used the same active ingredient in both crops.--Aaron Hager and Christy Sprague

Author: Aaron Hager Christy Sprague

The Pest Management and Crop Development Bulletin
Executive Editor: Kevin Steffey, Extension Entomologist

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