Managing weed populations that have become resistant to herbicide in your fields takes a new level of stewardship. That was the theme of one of the sessions at the recent 2013 On-Farm Network Conference. The annual event was held at Ames, presented by the Iowa Soybean Association, and several hundred farmers attended.
When it comes to pest management (let's include nematodes, insects, diseases and weeds in the pest realm) there are no silver bullets, says Tracy Blackmer, director of research for the On-Farm Network. "Resistance happens. It's Nature's way of adapting to threats. Some refer to this as survival of the fittest or natural selection. We spray a chemical that seems to control the target pest pretty well, but one or two of them survive. What happens next? Keep it up and the uncontrolled pests reproduce more like them, and eventually you may end up with a field full of waterhemp that your herbicide of choice no longer controls."
Will resistance also develop for insecticides, fungicides and other herbicides?
Will this happen with insecticides, fungicides, or other herbicides? It depends on how you adapt your management now, says Blackmer.
Managing pest resistance may not be at the top of your list to worry about this year (weather, prices, etc., are still pretty darned important). But even if you're one of the growers whose always rotated herbicides and you still haven't seen resistant weeds appear in the fields you farm, the general concept and the potential for this to happen should be on your radar screen. "The main tools in our arsenal for pest control are chemicals, genetic resistance, crop rotation, and, to a much lesser degree than in the past, tillage," notes Blackmer.~~~PAGE_BREAK_HERE~~~
It's a matter of stewardship. Think for a minute how your grandparents or great-grandparents might have changed their practices had they been able to see far enough into the future to recognize the impact of all that tillage on both soil and water.
With this in mind, what should you be doing to ensure that your children and grandchildren can follow in your footsteps? Here's what Blackmer suggests:
1) Educate yourself. Know the options available and how to use them, so you're confident the pest management choices you make are based on the best information available. This may include chemical rotation using products that may be not quite perfect.
2) Seek the advice of experts and specialists, whether they're independent crop consultants, agronomy advisers at local farm supply dealerships, Extension agronomists and pest management specialists, and even local people associated with the big chemical and seed companies. Some of these people may have a product they're fond of mentioning, but in the end, if they're as forward-thinking as you are, they'll be promoting your success in the long run, rather than a product for just this year.
3) Get involved in On-Farm Network testing. It's easy, generally doesn't cost a lot of time or money, and can be quite revealing.
* Check out results from last year here.
* See a list of this year's planned research and demonstration projects in last week's On-Farm Advance
* Sign up online for 2013 projects
* Contact Tristan Mueller, [email protected] of the On-Farm Network for more information