Herbicide Resistance: The Cost of Convenience

Opinion

“If it doesn’t impact me, I don’t care…”

I have attended many conferences across Canada and nothing gets farmers to fall asleep faster than speeches of the threat (actually, it’s reality) of herbicide resistance. For many farmers, it seems, they either don’t see this as something that impacts them or they don’t think it’s as serious an issue as it is.

The reality is that herbicide resistance is a problem. In fact, it’s a big problem that is on a trend line to become massively bigger. It’s a problem that is significantly impacting many farmers around the world, but unfortunately I find that those are the only farmers that are talking about it, for the most part.

In Canada, many farmers deal with resistance in wild oats, fleabane, and kochia, just to name a few, and the list is growing. Farmers in the southern United States are dealing with serious herbicide resistance issues, and yet many growers in Canada don’t seem to be at the point of worrying too much.

There has not been a new mode of action in the last 20 years in broadacre crops and just finding a new mode of action would not solve the weed resistance issue

Bodo Peters, with Bayer CropScience, says “if you don’t have herbicide resistance on your farm today, it is only a matter of time. Diversity is the best way to manage the issue.”

SEE MORE CONTENT ON HERBICIDE RESISTANT WEEDS

Herbicide resistance traits brought farmers convenience and efficiency and with that has now come new challenges that is disrupting some easier (cheaper?) field management options. Growing mostly crops that are glyphosate tolerant year after year, or using one product on nearly every acre over the course of a season, has proved to be problematic long-term. The solution is not just switching to another herbicide tolerant trait either, as issues with Liberty resistance are already being identified in certain areas of the U.S.

In Canada, we have already have major resistance issues with kochia, wild oats, fleabane, water hemp, and several more. You can see the breakdown of Canada’s herbicide resistance issues by CLICKING HERE.

Currently, six modes of action hold three-quarters of the market share across the world. The declining investment in herbicide research and reliance on glyphosate has led us to this issue.

According to Peters, “there has not been a new mode of action in the last 20 years in broadacre crops and just finding a new mode of action would not solve the weed resistance issue.”

Think about this for a second.  Even though herbicide research is declining, there has been 100 of millions of dollars committed and we still do not have a new mode of action in broadacre agriculture in 20 years.  This is not an issue that just throwing more money at means we will find a solution. As one industry veteran said to me recently, “if something doesn’t change in the next ten years we are $%^&*@.”

As life science companies go back to re-evaluate molecules from the last 40 years to make sure nothing was missed, growers are demanding access to older products that were essentially shelved as the convenience of glyphosate reigned supreme.

As companies invest to find a herbicide solution farmers are encouraged to diversify their crop rotations and herbicide groups.  Some farmers are being proactive but unfortunately many are not because lets face it the current way of doing things is just too darn convenient.

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