Stewardship – The future of new weed-control products relies on it
Seed and herbicide companies continue to introduce new products to help farmers fight the ongoing battle with herbicide-resistant weeds. And with several new products recently approved for use this growing season, Kevin Bradley, Ph.D., associate professor of plant sciences at the University of Missouri, says “stewardship” is the theme for 2017.
Now more than ever before, reading the label and following its restrictions is critical.
Roundup Ready® Xtend Crop System
The Roundup Ready 2 Xtend® trait, which includes tolerance to both glyphosate and dicamba, was approved for use in 2016.
Now, with the recent dicamba formulation approvals of Monsanto’s Xtendimax™ herbicide with VaporGrip™ technology, BASF’s Engenia™ herbicide and DuPont’s FeXapanTM herbicide plus VaporGripTM technology, farmers have high hopes that these new herbicides will be the answer to their resistant weed problems.
But Bradley says being over-optimistic of the potential of this system could be dangerous.
“No doubt this system will provide exceptional levels of control on weeds like marestail (horseweed) and giant ragweed,” says Bradley. “But I think a lot of farmers have a higher expectation of what this technology can do compared to what I think it will actually deliver.”
What he means is that, unless used responsibly in combination with a pre-emergence herbicide, such as Authority®, Valor® or Fierce®, the technology will be abused and eventually fail.
“A pre-application that reduces the population of weeds from the start is still just as critical with the new weed control systems,” says Bradley. “It’s what we have to have in order to keep them working.”
Label Education and Awareness a Must
With the dicamba label including more application restrictions than ever before, Bradley says the product is under careful watch by the Environmental Protection Agency. In order to keep it available for use in the future, farmers must use it with great stewardship.
“There’s a reason why these products only have a two-year label,” says Bradley. “If we demonstrate the product cannot be used successfully and accurately in 2017, then it will be pulled from the market and will no longer be available as a tool for weed control.”
For this reason, Bradley and his colleagues stress the importance of farmer awareness when it comes to using new weed control products as they become available.
“We stress that farmers enroll themselves in a training now in order to learn how to use these products correctly and effectively,” says Bradley. “Events are held all over the U.S. by seed companies, herbicide providers and university extensions that can be very educational and help eliminate misuse.”
Looking to the Future
With other weed control products awaiting global approvals, such as Enlist™ soybeans and the Balance® Bean herbicide, our weed control tool box seems to be growing. But Bradley says we’re getting too caught up in waiting for new products to become available as a solution to our weed problems.
“My message in recent years is that we have to start thinking about control mechanisms aside from herbicides,” says Bradley. “While herbicides are a tool that I’m sure will continue to help in the fight, cultural practices such as row spacing, tillage, cover crops, and harvest weed seed management can provide great benefits from a herbicide-resistant weed management standpoint.”