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Consistent Messaging Key to Change

About

  • Date

    09 Juni, 2017

About

Date

09 June, 2017

Why are farmers putting their livelihoods at risk by ignoring the weed resistance threat? Although weed science research has greatly improved our understanding of herbicide resistance, proactive resistance management practices have achieved only limited success. Prof. Aaron Hager from the University of Illinois believes inconsistent messaging from weed scientists and the agrochemical industry is one of the reasons.
Aaron Hager grew up on a farm in Illinois and is now Associate Professor at the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois. Hardly surprisingly, he’s a hands-on academic with a strong focus on the most problematic resistant weed in Illinois: waterhemp (Amaranthus tuberculatus), a plant that many didn’t even recognize as a unique species until the early 1990s. “It’s a major problem. Resistant waterhemp is now found in all 102 counties of Illinois and multiple resistance has been documented to herbicides from at least five classes.” The yield loss potential is huge: 43% in soybean and 74% in corn.

So how has this all come about? “Farmers in our state are heavily dependent on herbicides and very reluctant to do anything else to control weeds,” Aaron says. “I’ve met some farmers who are even more resistant (to change) than the weed! They’re saying things like ‘I don’t think it’ll happen on my farm and I’m not going to change anything till it does.’” But with the greatest challenge to farmers now coming from weeds with multiple resistance, Aaron knows the farming community is going to have to do things very differently in the future – and not just in Illinois.

Aaron pinpoints three areas of action to tackle the weed resistance issue: first, monitoring the spread of resistance; second, undertaking research to better understand the mechanisms of resistance; and third, ensuring consistent messaging to farmers about resistance management. Aaron and his colleagues researched the factors that drove glyphosate resistance in fields across two counties in the south of the state in order to base their recommendations to farmers on sound factual evidence. Their findings were revealing: a farmer’s weed management practices matter most; mixing herbicide modes of action, and not herbicide rotation alone, is a better strategy to mitigate resistance; and proximity to a neighbor’s glyphosate resistance is not the most accurate predictor of an imminent resistance issue.

But what bugs Aaron most as a hands-on academic is the question of how best to get this message across to farmers: “We must continue to find and utilize all today’s information techniques to transfer research from the lab to the field. Consistent messaging around weed resistance is critical – and will ultimately benefit both farmers and the industry!”

About

Date

09 June, 2017

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