WSSA urges farmers to band together to fight weeds

Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) scientists said recently that growers can gain the upper hand in the fight against weeds by cooperating with their neighbors in community-based weed-control programs.

WSSA Science Policy Director Lee Van Wychen said that while individual growers can battle herbicide resistance by varying the weed control tactics they use, the job is made harder because seeds from resistant weeds can still be transported from farm to farm.

“Resistance management works best when all farmers in a community band together, especially those who grow similar crops and face the same weed-control challenges,” Van Wychen said.

Community-based approaches have proved effective in Arkansas, where cotton and soybean producers are battling herbicide-resistant Palmer amaranth, commonly known as pigweed. Pigweed grows prolifically and can have a devastating financial impact, with studies showing yield losses of nearly 70 percent when pigweed is allowed to compete with cotton. In addition, a single pigweed plant can produce hundreds of thousands of seeds, making early control a must.

Some farmers are now banding together to adopt a “zero-tolerance” policy towards pigweed and remove the weed wherever they can find it – hopefully before it can set seed.

Jason Norsworthy, professor of weed science at the University of Arkansas and a member of WSSA, said he has been impressed with the results of one community-based, zero-tolerance program in Clay County, Arkansas, where farmers on the eastern side of the county have cooperated to battle pigweed.

“After a single year of the zero-tolerance approach, the time required to hand-weed escaped plants in a single, 50-acre cotton field dropped from 110 hours to five hours,” Norsworthy said. “In another field, seed presence in the soil was reduced by 65 percent in a single year, and in the second year, seeds could no longer be detected.”

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Weed Science Society of America

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