I recently had a busy week for a retired guy. I was invited to make a presentation at the Rice Outlook Conference in Little Rock and I chose a title I use in a lot of these articles — The Weeds Are Talking, Is Anybody Listening?

I attempted to summarize what I have been writing about this winter. Our current weed control technology is very dated and the weeds appear to be adapting quickly.

I spent much of the time discussing that aspect, but along with it is the need for new technology. From where I sit, I believe the new technology will have to come in the form of genetically modified rice. Obviously the market is not ready for genetically modified rice, and I tried to approach this controversial topic in a non-controversial manner.

I have made it clear to anyone who will listen that I fully support whatever decisions the rice industry must make to market our fine product. I just also attempted to make the industry aware of what is happening in the field, from a weed scientist’s perspective, and how that could possibly impact acres in the near future. The next few articles will further address this aspect.

In contrast to the need for new technology in rice, we are finally getting some new weed control technology in soybeans. The same week of the Outlook Conference I was invited to provide a weed scientist’s perspective at a press conference announcing the launch of LibertyLink soybeans. I am a firm believer that this technology must be successful.

I am on record many times saying that Roundup Ready is miracle technology. It is not only a miracle from a weed control standpoint, but it has provided the basis for a level of production efficiency most farmers would not have dreamed of prior to its introduction.

However, I wrote the entire winter of 2005 that glyphosate resistance was real and at the time we had no viable alternatives. At that time some of my counterparts even had the attitude that there was no need to talk about glyphosate resistance because farmers were not going to change what they were doing and really had nothing to change to.

I use a three-year rule on herbicide resistance — we are always three years further behind the curve than we think. My reasoning is a farmer misses a few weeds this year and thinks nothing about it. Next year he misses a lot more weeds with the same herbicide program and wonders why. The third year he makes sure to increase the rates and perhaps make an additional application with the same program and the field grows up.

At that point he has a seed sample tested. If resistance is confirmed, he is three years into the problem. That is not a criticism, but simply the human nature way things work.

Anyone who thinks we do not have glyphosate resistance issues, or that the problems we do have are being overblown, simply has their head buried in the sand. We are roughly 15 years into a miracle mono-herbicide system and the weeds are no longer talking — they are screaming.

The Roundup Ready technology must be preserved and the only way to do it is with viable alternatives. The LibertyLink system is the first alternative to a Roundup Ready program that provides the same broad spectrum over-the-top weed control and allows for the same efficiency we are used to. It is going to have a good fit where resistant weeds are already a problem.

However, I am a prevention guy. I think LibertyLink has an even better fit to prevent glyphosate resistance. If you stay with what you are doing until it does not work anymore, then you have to abuse the next technology.

By implementing a systematic rotation between Roundup Ready soybeans, LibertyLink soybeans and alternate crops, however, you can stay ahead of the weeds and keep all of your options viable. Any new technology that will work is good news for the soybean grower, and the LibertyLink technology will work.

e-mail: ford@weedconsultants.com