The PigPosium organized by the University of Arkansas and co-hosted by Delta Farm Press was a great experience for me and I must admit to a lot of different emotions. Who would have ever thought you would see 800 or so folks (a high percentage were growers) get to a meeting an hour before starting time to spend the day listening to speakers talk about one weed — Palmer pigweed.
I spent nearly 30 years as an Extension specialist and attended a lot of big meetings. However, this one far exceeded anything I was ever involved in. Everyone that had anything to do with the meeting did a fantastic job, and the speakers were excellent.
A week before the meeting some of the university guys were calling asking me if I thought people would show up. My comment was, “I don’t thing your facility will be big enough.” It was fun watching the cooks who prepared lunch for 200 or so scramble that morning to get ready for 800! They did it, too.
I had a great sense of satisfaction seeing the huge crowd. That comment should not be interpreted as me feeling responsible for getting one single person to the meeting. There was a great publicity effort for the meeting that had nothing to do with me. However, I have been writing about the on-coming glyphosate-resistant pigweed train since 2005.
For the past couple of years, sometimes it is all I have written about for weeks on end. I cannot tell you how many times I have second guessed myself, thinking, “Folks have to be bored stiff with me writing about the same thing over and over.” Heck, there have been plenty of times that I bored myself stiff writing about the same topic. I have asked my editor on numerous occasions, “Am I doing the right thing?”
The thing I have always gone back to is if we cannot derail the train of herbicide resistance, none of the other things I could be writing about instead will be very important five years down the road. While not attempting to take credit for anything, the huge attendance at that meeting tells me that a lot of my efforts as well as those of others have not totally fallen on deaf ears. I did have several come up and say, “See, Doc, people are listening more than you think!”
The first step in turning around any problem is to create awareness. The attendance at this meeting is a testament that folks have gotten the message that we have a problem. Every single farmer must realize he is not immune from herbicide resistance.
Herbicide resistance is the biggest threat to crop production that we may have faced yet. It is not going to be easy to solve, but we will. Now that folks (at least a lot of folks) realize the seriousness of the problem, we can get about the business of solving it.
One major theme at the meeting involved the soil seed bank and preventing pigweeds from going to seed. They gave away a shotgun to the person who had the closest guess on how many seed a Palmer pigweed plant (Elvira) on display had made. The winning number was 1.8 million! I would like to know who counted them.
I am constantly asked, “After I see the first resistant weed, how long is it until I have a full-blown problem?” The way it works in a nutshell is you have an escaped weed that you do not think anything about. The next year you have a spot of escaped weeds 10 to 100 feet across. All those came from the single plant from the year before. You run the combine through those and you are in the resistant pigweed business full-time.
One thing I heard several times at the meeting is you need to start changing your program when you first suspect you may be having a problem. If you still have the opportunity, you need to be changing your program BEFORE you ever have reason to believe you may be having a problem.