Checkoff Leads Industrywide Effort Against Weeds

Iowa Weed Inspection Field

Collaborative Take Action program yields unified message, tools for managing herbicide resistance

I will know my weeds. I will scout my fields regularly. I will think beyond herbicides and diversify my approach to weed management. The growing challenge of herbicide-resistant weeds is serious, and the soy checkoff is asking farmers to get more serious in addressing it — for example, by taking this pledge. The vow is part of the checkoff-led Take Action program, which dozens of other ag-industry organizations have joined in support of a unified weed-management message and strategy to help farmers tackle this challenge.

Wisconsin-Researcher

University of Wisconsin researcher Vince Davis, left, shows a farmer the Take Action herbicide classification chart at Commodity Classic in February, a handy tool for farmers to learn how to diversify their herbicide sites of action.

Herbicide-resistant weeds cost U.S. farmers $2 billion annually, according to University of Wisconsin researcher Vince Davis. This industrywide effort prepares all farmers in managing herbicide-resistant weeds to prevent them from spreading further. “With the direction the industry is going toward, breeding herbicide-tolerant traits into the crops, farmers need to be more aware of the products they can and should use, and Take Action is helping spread this message to them,” says Jim Musser, checkoff farmer-leader and soybean farmer from Mount Joy, Pa. “Diversification is important. In my own case, rotating herbicide modes and sites of action on our farm helps with weed control.”

One Message Unites Agriculture Industry

Even for farmers who haven’t dealt with herbicide-resistant weeds, it’s important that they’re familiar with the ones that pose the biggest resistance threat and also with the best production practices to manage them. In response to this growing problem, agriculture-technology companies BASF, Bayer, DuPont, Dow, Monsanto and Syngenta came together with the soy checkoff in 2011 to establish a unified approach to educating farmers on weed-management practices. From there, the checkoff invested in research by weed scientists at universities across the country and an educational program for farmer outreach, coining Take Action in 2013. Five commodity organizations have also joined the effort. Take Action encourages farmers to arm themselves with more weapons to wield against weeds, such as crop rotation, residual herbicides and multiple herbicide modes of action. It’s all about being prepared. What happens if a farmer finds Palmer amaranth in his or her field without knowing that one plant alone can produce 1.5 million seeds in a growing season? What starts out as a few glyphosate-resistant plants can suddenly overtake an entire soybean field. But timely weed identification and proper management can prevent such an outbreak.

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One way the checkoff is getting the word out about Take Action is through presentations and one-on-one conversations at farmer events. Above, USB Chairman Jim Call discusses the industrywide Take Action effort at Commodity Classic in February.

“The program draws attention to the problem and creates a common vernacular for all of us to speak across the country,” says Carroll Moseley, Ph.D., Syngenta’s senior regulatory stewardship manager. “We are involved because we think a program like this is instrumental in helping growers continue to increase soybean and other crop yields into the future.”

Awareness of Herbicide Resistance Grows

One of the checkoff’s roles has been to develop materials to help educate soybean farmers about herbicide resistance. Two popular items, the Eleven That Threaten weed-identification poster and the Herbicide Classification chart, can be downloaded at www.TakeActionOnWeeds.com. Both resources are flying off the shelves and being used by farmers, ag retailers, county extension agents and agronomists. For example:

  • Larry Steckel, Ph.D., University of Tennessee-Knoxville professor and row-crop weed specialist, showed the posters during his presentation at the Tri-State Soybean Forum in Dumas, Ark., and used them in his teaching all winter. He says they’re more convenient than flipping through pages in a book or scrolling through screens on a tablet computer. And they tell you exactly what herbicides and sites of action are used in various premixes, which is valuable information to have, Steckel says.
  • USB Director Jim Musser started distributing the posters at his local grain elevator and has since received requests from his county agent, a neighboring county agent and the Pennsylvania Soybean Board, who distributed them at winter meetings. Hanging these up on the shop wall or pesticide building is easier than calling someone on the phone or turning on your computer, he says.
  • Take Action is also creating a buzz online. Recently, someone posted www.TakeActionOnWeeds.com on an Ag Talk online forum, and 429 people clicked on the link to visit. And a tweet calling out the program’s “very handy herbicide mode of action chart” led to nearly 50 more clicks on the site.

Christy Sprague, Ph.D., Michigan State University professor and weed extension specialist who helped create the classification chart, says it gives farmers options of what might work best on their operation.

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The checkoff’s Eleven That Threaten weed-identification poster and Herbicide Classification chart are popular must-haves this growing season.

“We have a lot of different choices for herbicides, and this chart helps them put it into perspective by organizing options,” says Sprague. “Collaboration and having everybody on the same page has been very important in helping farmers understand herbicide resistance.”

Now It’s Your Turn to Take Action

It’s easy to take action and share the herbicide-resistance resources by posting them online, sharing them with your social networks or even handing out printed copies at your local co-op or coffee shop. To determine next steps for the Take Action partnership, the checkoff will host a stakeholder meeting in St. Louis in May. Industry partners, commodity groups, weed scientists and a group of QSSBs that provide input into farmer communications are invited to collaborate on ways to carry a consistent, unified message and achieve even greater impact. All in all, effective weed management starts with knowing your weeds. And the soy checkoff – alongside the agriculture industry – is dedicated to improving weed-management practices for soybean farmers across the country. The cost of managing weeds after they develop resistance to herbicides is often higher than the cost of preventing resistance in the first place. So encourage farmers you know to take the pledge and create a diversified weed-management plan. I will take action before weeds go to seed. I will manage weeds in field borders and ditches. I will use multiple herbicide sites of action. To commit to better weed-management practices, farmers can take the rest of the pledges on www.TakeActionOnWeeds.com. And don’t forget to request your copies of the Eleven That Threaten weed-identification poster and Herbicide Classification chart at www.TakeActionOnWeeds.com/request. Also, if you have success stories about managing herbicide-resistant weeds, please share those as well.