Unstoppable Weeds Are Here

Last week, spring finally arrived. And while the agricultural marketplace is eagerly preparing for the 2014 growing season, I pointed out some of the relatively new insect challenges that are likely to face ag retailers and their grower-customers this year.

But there’s a somewhat more daunting challenge lurking in the nation’s crop fields – herbicide-resistant weeds. Based upon the best estimates of weed researchers, there were more than 200 species of weeds in the U.S. with confirmed resistance in 2013. These ended up covering more than 70 million crop acres and cost growers more than $2 billion in extra crop protection products/applications/hand weeding costs. According to most researchers, the hardest to control weeds for agriculture include waterhemp, Palmer amaranth and marestail.

Which herbicide-resistant weed do you think will be the most hard to control in 2014?

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“As you look across the country, there definitely hasn’t been a decrease in the number of acres being affected by herbicide-resistant weeds,” said Damon Palmer, U.S. commercial leader, Enlist, at Dow AgroSciences at a recent trade show. “With all the cooler and wetter conditions that much of the country experienced during 2013, they should have been a little easier to control than in the hotter weather years we’ve been having. But that wasn’t the case and their numbers still increased.”

Luckily for the industry, help seems to be on the way. In both 2014 and 2015, there are a number of new products being introduced by various crop protection suppliers that promise to help combat the most troublesome weed types. These include Cobra from Valent U.S.A., Brake F2 from SePRO/Nichino America and Engenia from BASF. Waiting in the wings are the Enlist system from Dow and Acuron from Syngenta Crop Protection.

And according to Dr. Gordon Vail, technical product lead for herbicides at Syngenta, this is only the beginning of significant changes to the ways agriculture tries to control weed problems. “As weeds have evolved and become harder to manage, current weed control programs have lost their effectiveness,” said Vail. “We as an industry need some new options.”

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