by Brad Haire
Herbicide-resistant weeds didn’t fall from the sky or rise from fields in a mutant mutiny, but they are here nonetheless. With new herbicide technologies going mainstream this season, growers must continue dogged resistant-weed management programs to preserve viable chemistries for as long as possible.
“In general, herbicide-resistant weeds become a problem over time when they are selected to survive by the overuse of a single herbicide or single mode of action. In all weed populations, there are very low levels or frequencies of herbicide-resistant plants in comparison to susceptible plants,” said Eric Prostko, University of Georgia Extension weed specialist during an American Society of Agronomy webinar “Growing for Tomorrow: How Weed Resistance Management Can Lead to Sustainability” Feb. 1 sponsored by BASF.
The U.S. leads the world with 156 unique cases of herbicide-resistant weeds. “If you grew up in the U.S. like me, you are likely always proud to see American athletes win Olympic gold medals. The more the better, right? Unfortunately, the U.S. is also the gold medal winner for herbicide resistant weeds,” Prostko said.
Australia currently comes in second place with 84 unique cases of herbicide-resistant weeds, and Canada takes third with 64 cases.
Worldwide there are 478 unique cases of herbicide-resistance weeds. The most frequent modes of action that weeds have developed resistance to are the ALS inhibitors (SUs and IMIs), PS II inhibitors (triazine and ureas) and the ACCase inhibitors (dim and fop grass herbicides), he said.
The over-use of glyphosate on glyphosate-tolerant crops has led to the rapid development of glyphosate-resistant weeds over the last two decades, he said. Today, there are 36 weed species worldwide with resistance to glyphosate with 16 of those species in the U.S.
PPO-resistance is now a growing concern, too. “The evolution of PPO resistance is scary because many growers have been relying on herbicides with this mode of action to help manage herbicide-resistant pigweed. Currently, three weed species have evolved PPO-resistance in the U.S., including tall waterhemp, Palmer amaranth and giant ragweed. PPO-resistant Palmer amaranth is under investigation in Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina and South Carolina,” he said.
But resistant weed problems do not necessarily result in yield loss. In Georgia where farmers have dealt with glyphosate-resistant pigweed for more than a decade, cotton and peanut yields have continued to increase. But it has come at great cost.
The cost to fight resistant weeds with herbicides in Georgia cotton, for example, has increased since 2004 from $28 per acre to $68 per acre plus a 10 percent to 20 percent increase in cost of mechanical cultivation and an increase in the need for hand weeding going from just under $3 per acre to almost $24 per acre today.
So what can growers do or do better, especially in handling herbicide-resistant Palmer amaranth?
1 – Start weed-free at planting using a combination of tillage, cover crops and herbicides. Although the benefits of reduced tillage systems are many, they have also helped contribute to some of our resistant weed problems. “The deeper and longer Palmer amaranth seeds are buried, the less seed germination will occur. Burying pigweed seed with a moldboard plow every three years or so can be beneficial, particularly in problematic fields. In some cases, deep tillage may not be a practical option,” he said.
2 – For growers who cannot or will not use deep tillage, well-managed cereal cover crops can be used to help reduced the emergence of some weeds. Since Palmer amaranth seed requires light for germination, a heavy rye biomass, for example, can prevent light from reaching the soil surface which ultimately influences germination and emergence. Getting an adequate crop stand in extreme cover crops can often be challenging and requires diligence and practice.
3 – Another tactic that exploit’s the influence of light on weed seed germination and emergence is narrow-row planting. Studies in many crops show narrower rows typically result in better overall weed control.
4 – Use herbicides with multiple effective modes of action. Most, if not all, herbicide labels today have their modes of action listed in plain view. “You no longer have to be a weed scientist to identify different modes of action,” he said.
5 – A strict crop rotation “can be extremely beneficial for the management of herbicide-resistant weeds because multiple herbicide modes of action can be used over time. In the case of a typical cotton-and-peanut rotation in the Southeast, eight different herbicide modes of action can be used over a two year period,” he said.
6 – Don’t cut rates to save money or for any other reason. “The use of reduced herbicide rates has been proven to be one of the factors that can increase the rate of herbicide resistance development. … The bottom line: only full-labeled rates should be used for weed control.”
7 – Reduce the seed bank in field. Many growers know it but it’s worth saying again: pigweed is a ‘seedy’ plant, producing 500,000 to 1 million seeds per plant.
Cotton and soybean seed traits tolerant to new formulations of dicamba and 2,4-D, which are on track to be widely available and legal to spray over the top of crops this season, are expected to be planted in some regions. Both herbicides are in the same auxin herbicide family. “First and foremost, these new auxin technologies are not a miracle cure for all your current weed problems. You will still need to start clean, use residuals and make timely postemergence applications,” he said.
“Although much is being said about the new auxin technologies these days, I am not hearing very much about the fact that auxin resistance in weeds has already occurred,” Prostko said. “These herbicides are not new. Currently, eight weed species in the U.S have already developed auxin-resistance. Auxin technology stewardship will be even more important as we head into the future.”
Chad Asmus, technical marketing manager for BASF, spoke during the webinar and echoed Prostko’s concerns and recommendations for growers to reduce the risk of herbicide resistance developing in their fields, highlighting the company’s newly formulated dicamba herbicide Engenia, which can be sprayed over the top of dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybean.
The new herbicide has a BASF patented molecule called BAPMA, which, Asmus said, is the lowest volatility salt of dicamba with the highest loading and lowest use rate at 12.8 fluid ounces per acre; and it’s rain fast in 4 hours.