Sometimes we can’t resist saying, “I told you so.” Weed scientist Bob Hayes did an admirable job of that in moderating a session at Cotton Incorporated’s Crop Management Seminar.
Hayes, professor and superintendent of the West Tennessee Research and Extension Center, obviously has spent some time pondering the issue since he confirmed the first case of glyphosate-resistant horseweed in west Tennessee in 2001.
Although he advocated resistance management tools such as pre-emergence herbicides and rotating chemistries prior to the discovery, Hayes never said, “I told you so,” in introducing the weed management session.
Instead, he offered some quotes that were probably uttered by more than one farmer in the years leading up to the first case of glyphosate resistance in Delaware in 2000.
“If we could just figure out a way to spray Roundup over the top of cotton, weed control would be simple,” was the first quote, echoing a comment made by many growers and weed scientists prior to the introduction of Roundup Ready cotton in 1997.
Farmers took to Roundup Ready crops in a big way, leading to statements such as “The best thing to add to Roundup is more Roundup” and “Just mix a little of this with Roundup, and it will kill them.”
After Hayes confirmed the presence of horseweed that could not be killed with labeled rates of glyphosate in Lauderdale and Gibson counties, the tenor of the quotes changed.
“That resistant horseweed (marestail) is just a Tennessee problem.”
“I ain’t gonna change nuthin. I’ll just wait and see what happens.”
“Now we just need a variety that will let us spray Roundup after the fifth leaf” also became a common statement as labor and herbicide expenses rose.
And “Just wait until LibertyLink gets here. It will solve the problem, and I can quit paying technology fees.”
As the potential for glyphosate resistance in other weed species sank in, the quotes took another turn.
“Glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth will make Asian soybean rust seem insignificant,” Ford Baldwin, a former University of Arkansas weed scientist who now works as a consultant, was quoted as saying.
“Glyphosate-resistant pigweed in Georgia — those Georgia weed guys are just trying to stir things up. The chemical companies will come up with a new herbicide for it.”
“That stuff worked good as an experimental (herbicide), but now it won’t kill anything.”
“Man, I know, but I didn’t think it would happen to me.”
“I can’t go back to post-directing or cultivating. We don’t even have anyone that can set a cultivator.”
“Want to know how to control Palmer amaranth without glyphosate?” “Ho, Ho, Ho.”
And, finally, “This Palmer amaranth stuff makes me glad I’m 18 months from retirement,” a quote attributed to North Carolina State University Professor Alan York.
He never said, “I told you so,” but Hayes probably expressed much of the frustration weed scientists have felt as they watched the saga of glyphosate resistance unfold.