I recently attended a University of Arkansas county grower meeting to get me up and running for the new year. I encourage everyone who has to make in-field decisions to attend one.
Bob Scott made the weed control presentation and spent the entire talk on herbicide resistance. The message is being delivered, but I am still not sure it is being taken to heart. When things are working well, it is human nature for all of us to resist change as long as possible.
When I talk to growers or consultants about changing up their weed control programs, the most frequent response is, “Doc, I (or my farmers in the case of a consultant) am not worried about anything but surviving this next year.” That is, I am not worried about changing anything, because I am farming a year at the time.
I never hear anyone say, “I do not care whether I am farming the year after this one or the next or five years from now or 10 years from now.” While it is simple to say only this next year matters, most farmers I know who are not retirement age hope to be farming a long time.
It is relatively easy to talk to a grower who has a resistance problem about changing his program. However, what the university weed scientists are trying to accomplish, and what I am trying to accomplish in these articles, is to get growers who do not yet have problems to get into the prevention mode. That requires looking past this next year and making decisions that will have a long-term payoff.
I hope the launch of LibertyLink soybeans this year is the first step in giving us some new options in soybean weed control. Last year was likely the “breakout year” for pigweed resistance to glyphosate in Arkansas. If not, I predict this year will be.
If cotton acres go down as predicted, a lot of soybeans will be planted on ground that already has both glyphosate-resistant and ALS-resistant pigweed. If pigweed resistance is not already on the radar screen, it will be after this year.
While I think we will get the tools to get ahead of the hounds in soybeans, I still believe a lot of folks are going to look back and say, “Why did I drive the Roundup Ready technology off the cliff before I changed?” Most growers still have the opportunity to make some weed control changes to keep the best technology we have ever seen viable on their farm. However, you can not keep putting it off until next year.
I have a much bigger concern about herbicide resistance in rice. Going into this year, the acreage predictions are for rice to go way up. It is also predicted that Clearfield acres could be as high as 75 percent of the total. I am reminded of a line in a Jimmy Buffett song: “I don’t know where I’m going to go when the volcano blows.” I don’t know what we are going to do when the ALS-resistant barnyardgrass blows.
History tells us that when ALS resistance is discovered, herbicides with that mode of action for the most part are history in three years or less.
The ALS inhibitors we are using for grass control in rice are Newpath, Beyond, Regiment and Grasp. In addition, we use other ALS-inhibiting herbicides such as Permit, Londax and Strada for other weeds. While we are not there yet, I can see the day coming that without new technology there will not be the opportunity to grow rice in any field you wish anytime you wish.
If there is anything good about glyphosate resistance, it is the fact it is more of a creeping resistance. That means if it is recognized early there can be time for change before it blows completely up.
With the ALS inhibitors, if the proper steps are not taken BEFORE the first indications of resistance issues, it is often too late. I am not afraid of a fight and if we plant the predicted acres in Clearfield rice, I will help you fight as long as we can. I am just not sure what Plan B is.