Resistant weeds need your full attention

There has been little actual yield loss to Asian soybean rust in the Mid-South since LSU AgCenter plant pathologist Ray Schneider first discovered it on a research farm near the LSU campus in November 2004.

This is a testament to coordinated communications between plant pathologists as well as the ipmPIPE Web site, a soybean rust tracking system. The system allowed scientists and growers to know when and if they should make a preventive fungicide spray for the disease.

There has also been a great deal of media coverage of soybean rust. Ag publications have covered it cover to cover and Farm Press has published weekly updates on our Web sites about movement of the disease.

All in all, the U.S. soybean industry, from growers to industry to Extension, has done an exemplary job of disseminating information about the disease to the field.

So far, the geographical movement of the disease from south to north has struggled to catch up with a still-maturing soybean plant, but that’s not to say that one day, the disease will one day move more swiftly into soybean country, and the industry will have to react quickly. A big concern is whether money can be found to continue to fund ipmPIPE in all affected states.

That said, one wonders why Mid-South farmers aren’t paying more attention to a problem that has already caused more yield loss than soybean rust, and next year threatens to wipe out budgets and sack yields with all the fury of a hurricane — glyphosate-resistant weeds.

The big concern among weed scientists these days is that growers are too involved in other pressing issues to implement preventive measures prior to the growing season.

“We’re in a tough situation,” said Bill Robertson, the National Cotton Council’s manager, Soils, Agronomy and Physiology, and coordinator of the Beltwide Cotton Conferences.

“There are not only monetary costs associated with managing weed resistance, but there are time issues as well. With time and labor being stretched, a weed resistance management program is going to cost more money, and it’s going to take more time to do. It takes a full commitment for growers to implement a lot of these resistance management practices. We have to move this issue higher up on their priority list.”

Along that line, the NCC will host a consultants conference at the Beltwide this year in San Antonio, Texas. About half of the two hours allotted to the conference will be dedicated to weed resistance management. The conference, which begins at 1 p.m. on Monday, Jan. 5, would be a good time to get educated about the danger weed resistance poses to growers.

Several farmers who didn’t do anything about a few escaped Palmer pigweed plants in 2007 were surprised to see the prolific plant completely infest fields in 2008. Weed scientists say that more of this could be in store for growers who don’t implement preventive measures for resistant weeds this coming spring. If resistant weeds can be economically managed because of these efforts, it will be money spent wisely.

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