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New Herbicide Technologies Will Fail if We Don’t Remember Past Sins

Source credit: www.farmprogress.com

I think I can safely say after more than 27 years of professional experience, obtained in three different regions of our GREAT country, that most Extension personnel have dedicated their lives to helping solve the problems of American agriculture.

 Our mission, since we chose to accept it, is to solve any and all problems with science.  But often it is easy for folks to get lost in the myriad of graphs, charts, and data that are generated in pursuit of that noble cause.  Sometimes a simpler and more direct message is more impactful.

The fact that no new herbicide modes of action have been developed since the 1980s and new cases of herbicide-resistant weeds continue to be discovered every year should make herbicide/technology stewardship a priority for all of us in the business of weed management.

A couple of years ago, my North Carolinian-native colleague convinced more than 1,000 Georgia cotton farmers to tell him what they thought were the top factors that were important in helping them get a handle on their Palmer amaranth problems.  These were factors that the growers had to write down on their own accord without any prompting or suggestion.  I have listed these in Figure 1.  It is my opinion that they speak for themselves and are appropriate for all crops. 

Now if you have attended any of the local weed meetings that my teammate and I have been fortunate enough to headline over the last 15 years, you would have heard the exact same message from us.  Albeit in a slightly different format.  So, it has been a very big surprise to hear rumors that the factors that some growers are willing to abandon first are the very ones that saved them from potential disaster.

The new auxin technologies (i.e. dicamba and 2,4-D tolerant crops) have been a welcome addition to all those challenged by the multiple herbicide-resistant weeds that plague many rural landscapes. However, it will not take long for these new technologies to fail if growers do not remember the sins of the past.  I do not want to cry wolf here, but auxin resistance has already been reported in 39 different weed species worldwide (10 species in U.S.). 

In the end, if you are somewhat reluctant to believe your favorite extension weed specialist armed with the latest and greatest data on colorful PowerPoint slides, why not believe 1,062 of your colleagues?  Just because a new technology is developed, implemented, and effective, there is no sane reason to not include the other weed control practices that have been proven again and again and again.  Regardless of crop or technology, start clean (tillage/cover crops/burndown herbicides), use residual herbicides, multiple herbicide modes of action, make timely POST applications, and hand-weed rogue escapes.  The future of weed science depends on it! 

As always, good weed hunting!

The original article can be accessed here.