The biggest mistake farmers make in the battle against weed resistance is to simply wait too long to do anything about it. The one-more-year farmer tries to make another round with his current one-thing-fits-all herbicide management program, and it ends up being a costly decision.
This farmer takes a big gamble when it comes to herbicide resistance. And it’s a foolish gamble for a simple reason: The farmer knows, or strongly suspects, that weeds on his farm are not all succumbing to his herbicide regiment. Yet, he opts for the same strategy one more year. That’s kind of like ignoring the chest pains long enough to get one more round of golf in before calling the ambulance.
The one-thing-fits-all approach to weed management days have passed, especially for cotton, and should be regaled to nostalgia and "remember-when" stories.
Research in recent years, especially in cotton, has well established that a systems approach to weed control is a must these days, laying down the residuals, getting them activated, then timely hitting weeds with multiple chemistries as the season progresses, and keeping a weed-chopping crew on speed-dial to come in when escapes appear, which will happen even under the best management eye.
Thinking about the one-more-year guy reminds me of what could be deemed the Three Stages of Weed Resistance Awareness.
The Lucky, the Denier and the Oh-!@#$ Guy
Consider this somewhat of a risk index to gauge your particular situation, a simple guy’s (me) non-scientific guide to weed consciousness, if you will:
The Lucky Farmer: This fellow really hasn’t had any resistant weed problems so far in any of his fields across his crop mix. These farmers do exist. I’ve spoken with a few. But like $2 gas, they’re rare these days. Either this farmer never bought into the one-thing-fits-all weed management approach, or he saw the writing on the wall as neighboring farmers fell to the problem. He jumped out ahead, abandoned the ‘easy’ way, and went straight to the multi-pronged (and much more expensive) attack now preached by Extension and industry specialists alike. In theory, he might have resistant weeds, but he’s kept the tell-tale symptoms of them at bay.
The One-More-Year Guy: Or the denier. A few weeds one season seem to stick around as others succumb to his herbicide application. Maybe it was a missed section during spraying? A hiccup in application or the rate applied? No big deal. It happens, right? He’ll see how it goes next season. He might even up the herbicide rate a touch; that’ll get 'em.
The Oh-!@#$ Guy: The next year comes and weeds stand tall, mockingly peering high over the crop’s canopy. And it hits, that "oh-no!" moment. I've got a real problem here with weeds. It’s here. I have it. No doubt. What do I do now? This farmer has had an awakening and needs some help, and help is out there. He calls his Extension agent, his crop consultant, and his dealer. He follows through with that worried moment and makes the right adjustments. He’s behind the eight-ball for sure, but acceptance is half the battle. Over time, and usually much longer than he likes and much more costly then dreamed, he ends up in the stage of The Lucky Farmer.
All of this is a bit tongue-in-cheek, but weed resistance remains one of the top issues facing Southeast agriculture. Any farmer, I think, still farming today has proven he is a good farmer. As we enter a time of depressed commodity prices, the best will be tested. And who can blame the one-more-year guy. It’s a tough economic and management call.
Now, if you’ve stayed with me this far, here's the treat. A weed-challenged Australian farmer in this video parodies a pop song, lamenting his struggle with resistant weeds, something Australian farmers are all too aware of. The song’s refrain, “I can’t even spray them now. Have to kill the !@#$%^&s with a moldboard plow.” It’s well done and tragically hilarious, and once you hear it, you won't be able to get it out of your head.