Change is in the air now that Palmer amaranth seeds are here
Changes are needed for weed control management practices in corn and soybeans across the Midwest. Palmer amaranth (Amaranthus palmeri) has established itself across the state. Sure, we've battled fellow pigweed species for years, but this new one with its rapid growth is a game changer.
Recently, I had the pleasure of attending a field research tour sponsored by Bayer CropScience. I've attended similar field day events in the past and had no reason to think this one would be much different. My expectations of joining no more than 30 others were exceeded when between 400 and 450 showed up! In fact, the hosts were caught a bit off guard by the record attendance. One representative commented that about 250 had preregistered. That many unexpected participants were a bit of a problem with catering….but overall, it was a GOOD problem because it was abundantly clear that producers have realized this new weed is in their area and they came to learn what this is going to mean for current management practices on their farms.
The tour featured four presentations by weed scientists from the University of Illinois and the University of Tennessee as well as a representative of Bayer CropScience. They gave tips on identification of Palmer amaranth. They discussed herbicide resistance among waterhemp and Palmer amaranth populations. They told stories of how this weed had devastated crops in southern states. Not only crops, but farms have been lost to this extremely competitive weed. Lastly, they gave recommendations on management.
This last part really resonated with me. I was reminded that nothing is constant but change. Now some practices will be the same. There is a big emphasis on scouting with this new weed. Fields were scouted before, but now the practice will be amped up considerably where populations are suspected or known. Weed size was always important but now it is critical. Post-emergent applications must be made to small plants. Soil residual herbicides must now be used. They used to be common, but glyphosate alone did such a fabulous job. It was easy and the price was right. We rode that train as long as we could. However, using multiple modes of action and rotating chemistries are of extreme importance in keeping Palmer amaranth controlled. In fact, one speaker noted that using a single chemistry was just stupid. Yet, that was the common practice for years.
Two thoughts came to mind with that comment. One was the time in grad school when I asked if we'd ever see weed resistance occur with glyphosate and I was laughed at and told, "No, we would have seen it by now." That was roughly 16-17 years ago. We know better now. The other thought that occurred to me is, "What practices are we using now that in 16-17 years will no longer be recommended?" We will continue to conduct research and learn and amend recommendations and practices as needed. That's what humans do no matter the topic or area of concern.
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