Resistant Weed Control Begins With Understanding the Threat

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In our March issue, we’ll have a special insert devoted to coverage of the Cotton Grower SoundOFF event held at the Beltwide Cotton Conferences. Boiled down, the idea behind SoundOFF is to hand industry experts a microphone and an audience, and let them do their thing, as they are wont to do.

The interesting thing about these events – and we’ve held a half-dozen or so in recent years – is that often times the audience is just as invested in the subject at hand as the speakers themselves. A case-in-point example of this happened in San Antonio.

University of Georgia Extension expert Stanley Culpepper had just finished telling a packed house how growers in his state had finally begun to turn a corner in their battle against resistant weeds. I was shuffling a microphone around the audience so that Culpepper could field questions at the time.

Eventually I handed the mic to Dr. Peter Dotray of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. Like Culpepper did years ago, Dotray is now forced to confront the prospect of widespread glyphosate resistance in his state.

“If you could go back to year two of this resistance mess that you saw in Georgia,” Dotray asked of Culpepper, “and you could give advice to some of us who are experiencing that right now, what would your message be?”

It was a poignant moment, as most of the rest of the audience in the room were Texas growers who find themselves suddenly on guard against resistant weeds. As weed experts have documented, glyphosate resistance has established itself from the Brazos Bottom to the High Plains in Texas.

Now, because Georgia was Ground Zero for glyphosate resistant pigweed, Culpepper has been thrust into this national discussion – acting as a sort of ambassador to the rest of the Cotton Belt. And because I’m an editor at Cotton Grower magazine, I get to hear Culpepper talk about this a great deal. So I knew what Culpepper wanted to say to answer that question – which is different from what he actually said.

“My preventative program would cost my growers $30 per acre in herbicide cost and maybe $2 in hand weeding,” Culpepper said. “Currently my guys with resistance spend $68 an acre in herbicides and $12 an acre in hand weeding and tillage. So you have to run a preventative program. You can do something about it now that can save hundreds of millions of dollars in the state of Texas.”

Culpepper went on to talk about the importance of residual herbicides, the efficacy of cold steel, and the need to prevent these plants from going to seed. All of these things are incredibly important in the battle against resistant weeds.

But Culpepper couched something that I’ve heard him harp on numerous times over the past couple of years. The real turning point within the state of Georgia, he says, happened in between the ears of Georgia’s cotton producers.

Changing the mindset about how to deal with this problem was Culpepper’s biggest obstacle. He feels his state overcame it sometime around 2010 when Georgia producers collectively adopted an “all in” approach to fighting resistant weeds.

Of course, Dotray knows this as well. He’ll be focused on changing how Texas producers think about this problem over the next couple of years. Hopefully, as Culpepper advocated, growers in the Lone Star state will be proactive, rather than reactive, in dealing with resistant weeds.


Barnes is the senior editor /online editor for Cotton Grower, joining the staff in May 2008. In addition to writing for the magazine, he also oversees Beck is also responsible for production of Cotton Grower eNews.

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