Weed Worries Won’t Wane

Malcolm Haigwood

By all accounts, 2011 was one of the most profitable and yield-plenty years agriculture has ever seen. But most industry observers agree that these same conditions also increased the number of hard-to-control weeds grower-customers and ag retailers had to deal with.

And the problem, say experts, will only get worse in 2012 and the years ahead. According to researchers, the number of weed species with resistance to more than one herbicide mechanism of action has increased dramatically since 1990. Currently, 50 weed species have been confirmed with multiple forms of resistance including giant and common ragweed. Furthermore, new varieties with confirmed or suspected resistance are being discovered with alarming regularity.

“Many weed scientists consider herbicide resistance to be the most serious immediate challenge to our agricultural system,” says the University of Kentucky’s Michael Barrett, president of the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA).

And resistant weeds aren’t being limited to the farm anymore. A recent article in Weed Science magazine reported that golf course owners in Tennessee have found a biotype of annual bluegrass that seems to have developed a resistance to glyphosate application.

According to Barrett, part of the reason for this rapid advancement of resistant weeds ties back to the nature of these plants. “Weeds have challenging biology, competitive ability and the potential for rapid evolution of new resistances,” he says.

But perhaps a bigger reason for the spread of resistance weeds is the widespread popularity of glyphosate and its accompanying tolerant crops as an all-purpose control solution. According to USDA statistics, growers planted approximately 91% glyphosate-tolerant soybeans and 68% glyphosate-tolerant corn in recent years.

“The use of glyphosate in all major row crops this past year was 275 million acres treated,” says Andy Hurst, technical brand manager for Bayer CropScience. “That exceeded the next closest active ingredient applied by nearly six-fold.”

Jason Weirich, a weed scientist at the Delta Research Center for the University of Missouri, agrees that the popularity of glyphosate since 1996 has probably increased the resistance problem. “My generation is known as the glyphosate babies,” says Weirich. “It’s all we grew up with — glyphosate, glyphosate, glyphosate.”

To better understand how this might work, weed scientists Paul Neve from the University of Warwick in England and Ken Smith and Jason Norsworthy from the University of Arkansas recently developed a computer model to look at the evolution of glyphosate resistance in Palmer amaranth (also known as pigweed). When run, this model predicted — and subsequent fieldwork confirmed — that uninterrupted use of glyphosate alone (i.e., five applications per season per year) would result in glyphosate resistance within four years.

“With the computer model, we were able to run thousands of scenarios, and the results were surprising,” says Norsworthy. “We knew utilizing residuals and reducing soil-seed bank were key pieces of the puzzle. What we didn’t know was that early-emerging weeds produce exponentially more seeds than those that emerge with crop competition. With more seeds, there is a much higher probability that one of those seeds could be a resistant mutant.”

Palmer Problems Proliferate

It’s no mystery why these three weed scientists were looking at Palmer amaranth, either. This weed can tolerate high temperatures, dry soil conditions and can display a prolonged emergence pattern with a higher germination rate at shallow seed depths. Also, because it is a dioecious species — meaning plants are either male or female — a great deal of genetic diversity can be introduced into the Palmer population from one year to the next. This is probably how, researchers agree, the weed was able to develop its resistance to herbicides and spread so quickly throughout the Southern tier of states. During 2011, say observers, this pattern of distribution was probably aided by the rampant flooding that occurred in the spring, which likely carried numerous resistant Palmer amaranth seeds several miles from their home fields.

“I see the resistant weed problem today in Arkansas like it was four or five years ago in the Midwest,” says Arkansas Grower Malcolm Haigwood, talking about the rapid spread of Palm­er amaranth in his area. “Now, it’s getting to the point where glyphosate application is almost not effective anymore at weed control in our state.”

Furthermore, the Palmer amaranth problem is headed north. According to Aaron Hager, an Extension weed specialist for the University of Illinois, the species is fairly common in the southern third of his state, but it is expanding northward. Recently, he says, at least one population of glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth has been confirmed in the mix.

“The growth rate and competitive ability of this species exceed that of other Amaranthus species,” says Hager. “Waterhemp can add close to 1-inch of new growth per day under good growing conditions, whereas Palmer amaranth can add multiple inches. This species has managed to drastically spread across the southern U.S., so what says it won’t spread to Northern Illinois as temperatures increase. This could be a huge problem, especially as glyphosate resistance is identified.”

To attempt to control their Palmer amaranth problem, Les Glasgow, Ph.D, head of weed management strategies for Syngenta Crop Protection, has the following suggestions for grower:

•    Plant into clean fields following tillage or use of herbicides to burndown weeds.

•    Apply a preplant or preemergence residual herbicide.

•    Overlap an early postemergence residual herbicide.

•    Remove weed escapes from fields before they seed set.

Waterhemp Won’t Waiver

Of course, Illinois growers — and those across much of the Midwest — are already dealing with their own prolific weed, waterhemp. While native to the U.S., waterhemp didn’t become a major agronomic problem until the 1980s, when reduced tillage systems and simplified weed management programs came into vogue. In fact, according to Dr. Bryan Young, professor of weed science for Southern Illinois University, 90% of Illi­nois acres from Bloomington to Decatur have waterhemp present.

“Waterhemp is a challenge for growers and has been for the last 20-plus years,” says Young. “Throw in the challenge of herbicide resistance and it’s no wonder that waterhemp has become public enemy No. 1 for growers.”

The big challenge, says Dr. Rick Cole, weed management product manager for Monsanto Co., is once waterhemp becomes established, it has a growth rate 50% to 70% greater than other annual weed species. “When allowed to compete with crops during the growing season, waterhemp can cause dramatic yield losses in both soybeans and corn,” says Cole.

In addition, waterhemp is very adaptive. The weed has the ability to grow during drought and, because of its dioecious nature, can quickly reshuffle its genetic diversity into resistant types. According to Dr. Mike Owen, Extension weed specialist and professor of agronomy for Iowa State University, some types of waterhemp have developed resistance to at least five modes of action. “In Iowa, we have resistance to waterhemp in triazine, ALS inhibitor, PPO inhibitor, glyphosate and HPPD inhibitor herbicides,” says Owen.

And it sounds as if resistance to a sixth mode of action has arrived. According to Dr. Mark Bernards, assistant professor of agronomy, crop science and weed control at Western Illinois University, he has found a population of waterhemp that appears resistant to 2,4-D. “When tested, this population survived doses of 32 quarts per field of 2,4-D,” says Bernards. “These plants also showed some ability to survive dicamba application, although I’m not comfortable saying this is proof of resistance to that herbicide just yet.”

To combat waterhemp, Iowa State’s Owen says growers need to develop their weed management strategies as if all waterhemp is resistant to one or more herbicides. “All herbicide weed management needs to be redundant, including that for waterhemp,” he says. “Growers should focus on five years down the road, not just on the flush in front of them or what they expect from the coming year.”

Beyond this, Owen has these suggestions:

•     Do not use only one tactic or herbicide to control weeds.

•     Use tank mixes of herbicides with different modes of action.

•     Use a soil-applied residual herbicide on all acres, regardless of the crop or trait present.

Scouting Some Solutions

To prevent the spread of resistant weeds, many experts recommend ag retailers and their grower-customers adopt a greater reliance on scouting techniques. This will help not only in determining what weeds are present in the fields, but provide a better read on their intensity and locations. With this information in hand, growers can make very informed decisions on their long-term weed management planning, including whether or not to utilize a fall herbicide application.

“By scouting at harvest for weed escapes, you can go into winter with a specific weed management target for the coming year and have time to develop a plan to reach that target,” says Dr. Bill Johnson, professor of weed science at Purdue University.

Adopting a rotation with different herbicide-tolerant crops is also recommended by some experts. “We try to rotate our crops through glyphosate at the most every other year,” says Al Ludwig, a grower based in North Central Iowa. “Sometimes, we have fields go three years in a row without Roundup on them.”

Besides scouting and rotation practices, WSSA’s Barrett recommends growers apply herbicides at the full labeled dose for each weed species, not exceeding maximum weed size. “Also, growers should identify and promote individual best management practices for specific farming sectors with the greatest potential impact,” he says. “This herbicide sustainability and best management practices adoption should be used by both the public and private sectors.”

Some folks in the agricultural community believe herbicide research will soon discover “the next big active ingredient” to help combat resistant weeds. However, as Barrett points out, no herbicides with new mechanisms of action are in advanced development trials and the last such product was introduced more than 20 years ago. “Therefore, we will have to rely on currently available herbicides for the foreseeable future,” he says.

Despite this fact, there are a few new crop protection options slated to appear into the ag marketplace during the next few years. For instance, Dow AgroSciences is moving forward with its Enlist Weed Control System, expected to hit the market soon. The Enlist system will be a single postemergence product, combining glyphosate with a new 2,4-D choline (instead of an amine or an ester as in traditional 2,4-D formulations), offering users multiple modes of action for their weed control. This will be coupled with herbicide-tolerant traits in elite germplasm.

“If Enlist is not available as the glyphosate-resistant weed problem continues to expand, the use of the alternative herbicide and tillage programs is projected to reduce net farm income by up to $2.5 billion as early as 2017, and then continue at that level every year through 2020,” says Damon Palmer, U.S. commercial leader for Enlist weed control system at Dow AgroSciences.

Also coming in the next few years is Engenia herbicide, claimed to be “the next generation formulation of dicamba” by manufacturer BASF, which will be used in conjunction with dicamba-tolerant crops. “Engenia will be an important tool for soybean growers battling herbicide-resistant weeds such as Palmer amaranth, waterhemp and marestail,” says Paul Rea, vice president, crop protection for the company. “Engenia will provide a valuable new herbicide option as part of a comprehensive weed control system to help growers protect their crops from yield-robbing weeds.”

In addition, Lowell Sandell, a weed scientist at the University of Nebraska, says that agriculture can still rely on glyphosate application for some of its weed control needs. “Just because we have glyphosate-resistant weeds out there doesn’t mean that glyphosate is not a useful herbicide at all,” says Sandell. “We need to maintain its usefulness through active resistance management. Rotation of modes of action and diversification of our weed management programs, both from a herbicide and a cultural practices standpoint is critical.”

Topics: , ,

Leave a Reply

Herbicides Stories

HerbicidesWeed Control And Soil Health Go Hand-in-Hand
October 10, 2016
Although many landowners may not give much thought to weed control as a soil health measure, Gared Shaffer, South Dakota Read More
Crop InputsEU Glyphosate Controversy Heating Up Yet Again
August 17, 2016
The battle over glyphosate rages on in Europe, creating a lot of question marks over whether the herbicide will continue Read More
Winter Wheat
HerbicidesNew Wheat Herbicide Helps Growers Manage Resistant Weeds
August 2, 2016
Quelex herbicide from Dow AgroSciences is now registered by the U.S. EPA, providing wheat growers a new solution for advanced Read More
Palmer pigweed seedhead in cotton
HerbicidesStudy: Fall Weed Controls Can Make Significant Impact On Glyphosate-Resistant Palmer Amaranth
July 28, 2016
An article published in the latest issue of the journal Weed Science shows that adopting harvest-time and post-harvest weed controls Read More
Trending Articles
Matt Hopkins15 Twitter Accounts Every Ag Professional Must Follow
October 13, 2016
What do singer Katy Perry and the President of the United States have in common? They are two of the Read More
AGCO RG700 cab
OpinionRoadblocks To Precision Ag Innovation
October 5, 2016
On August 29, I got to preside over the PrecisionAg Innovation Series event, “Game-Changing Advances in Precision Farming Technology,” developed Read More
J.C. Ramsdell containment system
EquipmentClear Opportunity In The Tank Market
October 4, 2016
Crop prices may be down, but steel prices are too — and that’s good news for retailers looking to add some Read More
WinField booth Farm Progress
Special ReportsTalking Weed Management Strategies At Farm Progress 2016
October 2, 2016
The annual Farm Progress Show — this year staged in Boone, IA — is always a great place to catch Read More
Corn Field
Eric SfiligojFacing Ag Industry Challenges
September 26, 2016
At the 2016 annual Mid America CropLife Association (MACA) meeting in September, a pair of crop protection company representatives discussed Read More
Bayer Monsanto
Crop InputsBayer-Monsanto Mega-Merger: 6 Things You Need To Know
September 14, 2016
Mega mergers have become almost routine in the agricultural industry. Right on the heels of Monday’s news that fertilizer giants Potash Read More
Latest News
Stewardship4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program To Launch…
October 26, 2016
The 4R Nutrient Stewardship Certification Program will expand the voluntary retailer program to the full state of Ohio, allowing nutrient Read More
AGCO RG700 at the 2015 National Farm Machinery Show
EquipmentAGCO Parts Rolls Out No-Interest, No-Payments Offer Via…
October 26, 2016
AGCO Corp. is now offering an innovative financing solution on qualifying Parts and Service transactions. Now through December 31, 2016, Read More
Soybean field
Crop InputsIncotec Invests In North America
October 25, 2016
Leading seed enhancement company Incotec, part of Croda, has announced an investment in their North America business. The total investment of Read More
Patriot 25th anniversary
SprayersCase IH Celebrates 25 Years Of Patriot Sprayers At Bens…
October 24, 2016
Case IH executives, employees and special guests celebrated 25 years of production of Case IH Patriot sprayers in a special Read More
4r Nutrient stewardship
StewardshipNominations For The 4R Advocate Program Due October 31
October 24, 2016
Nominations for the 4R Advocate program are due to The Fertilizer Institute by October 31, 2016. The program recognizes agricultural Read More
Corn close up
Eric SfiligojProtecting Agriculture’s Ability To Feed The World
October 24, 2016
The rate of change coming to agriculture is growing, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. This Read More
Student Young Worker CHS
CropLife 100CHS Supports #FirstJob Compact
October 24, 2016
CHS joins the White House and many of the country’s largest employers in signing a new initiative centered on helping Read More
Kennebec Grain terminal
CropLife 100Wheat Growers Kennebec Facility Loads First Rail Cars
October 21, 2016
In a season of firsts for Wheat Growers’ Kennebec Grain Terminal, the first 115-car unit train was loaded with soybeans Read More
ManagementThe Latest Dow-DuPont Rumor, Product of the Year Voting…
October 20, 2016
CropLife Editor Eric Sfiligoj shares a new rumor about the Dow-DuPont merger and updates on two CropLife-driven programs, the CropLife Read More
Soybean Closeup
FungicidesFMC Begins Registration Process For New Fungicide Activ…
October 19, 2016
FMC Agricultural Solutions has begun the joint U.S. EPA and Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency registration process for bixafen, a new Read More
Soil Young Corn
Industry NewsAgribusiness Search Firm Appoints New Managing Partner
October 18, 2016
Morris Bixby Group, a leading agribusiness search firm providing the highest quality professional recruiting and career advancement services since 2000, Read More
Wheat Field North Dakota
FertilizerUnited Suppliers Acquires Kansas Fertilizer Business
October 17, 2016
United Suppliers, Inc. has purchased the assets of Evans Enterprises, LLC, an ammonium chloride fertilizer business based in Olathe, KS. Read More
Corn Field
Industry NewsFMC Launches New Operations In Argentina, Exits Joint V…
October 17, 2016
FMC Corp. has exited its joint venture with Ruralco Soluciones S.A. FMC has launched new commercial operations, FMC Quimica S.A., Read More
Dow AgroSciences
InsecticidesRenewed Registration Issued For Products Containing Sul…
October 17, 2016
On October 14, 2016, the U.S. EPA re-established the registration of products containing sulfoxaflor (Isoclast Active), including Transform WG, Closer Read More
Eric SfiligojThe Whys Of Agriculture
October 17, 2016
During 2016, there have been myriad challenges facing the whole agricultural industry. Such wide ranging issues as water protection, sustainable Read More
Young Corn Field
FertilizerImproved Phosphorus Management Essential To Feeding Wor…
October 14, 2016
With a global population expected to reach 9 billion people by 2050, improved management of key essential nutrients such as Read More
ManagementHarvest and Crop Price Updates; EPA and Crop Protection…
October 13, 2016
Glyphosate and atrazine get public comment support from ARA as each is reviewed by EPA, and the latest on the Read More
Matt Hopkins15 Twitter Accounts Every Ag Professional Must Follow
October 13, 2016
What do singer Katy Perry and the President of the United States have in common? They are two of the Read More