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|Farmers can fight pigweed by using diverse seed and tactics|
By Troy Hornbeck
A farmer friend used to joke that there is a generation gap among farmers. One generation remembers life before glyphosate herbicide, and the other generation doesn't. Nobody laughs very hard at that little joke anymore, now that herbicide-resistant weeds are cropping up across the Delta.
Louisiana's first specimen of resistant pigweed was confirmed last season in Concordia Parish. Early this year, the LSU AgCenter reported more pigweed finds in Tensas and Franklin Parishes. Resistant johnsongrass turned up in Pointe Coupee Parish. Resistant tall water hemp is suspected in Concordia.
Pigweed, or Palmer amaranth, may be the worst of the worst. Pigweed can grow one inch per day and its stalks are tough enough to wreck equipment. It can flourish in cotton, corn, soybeans or atop a rice levee.
One mature plant can produce more than 200,000 seeds. When resistant pigweed pops up, it doesn't need much time to claim a field and destroy any hope of a profitable harvest.
There is an upside, though. Every farmer can take steps to combat the threat, and Louisiana growers can benefit from lessons learned the hard way by farmers in neighboring states.
Weed scientists at the LSU AgCenter have been quoted as recommending the use of different herbicides, different seed, and other change-up tactics. As we talk with farmers in Louisiana and elsewhere, we offer similar recommendations.
We encourage farmers to diversify their seed and chemical selections, planting conventional or LibertyLink soybean brands that aren't glyphosate-tolerant.
Many north Louisiana growers are able to rotate between beans, corn, rice or cotton. With some extra planning, that diversity can become a tool to fight pigweed. Likewise, some growers have improved crop yield by adjusting the timing of their planting and chemical applications. Research suggests the same timing decisions may help control pigweed.
Farmers who continue using glyphosate may want to investigate use of a companion herbicide as well. In any case, always apply chemicals at recommended rates. Even massive overdoses of glyphosate wonít stop resistant pigweed.
Finally, growers should consider modifying their post-harvest practices to make sure that pigweed doesn't reach maturity after the crop is in. Remember, one plant makes 200,000 seeds -- if not more.
Success stories are emerging as farmers in other states adopt this kind of diversification strategy. Louisiana farmers have the opportunity to start before pigweed gets too widespread.
One day pigweed may be like the boll weevil, effectively eradicated from the South and little more than an historical footnote. Until that day, itís important for every grower to plan ahead and diversify their practices.
(Editor's Note: Troy Hornbeck of DeWitt, Ark., is chief operations officer of Hornbeck Seed Company, Inc.)
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