Academics Claim Proposed USDA Budget Would Cripple Weed Science Research

Little money available for herbicide resistance studies, other work.

Published on: May 18, 2010
If the Weed Science Society of America is playing Chicken Little, crying that the sky is falling when it's not, they've got plenty of company. Nearly every major weed science society in the country recently signed onto a letter asking that the budget for weed science activities be restored in USDA's Institute of Food and Agriculture Budget.

The WSSA is the group that people who specialize in weed control research belong to. Other societies joining in include the North Central Weed Science Society, the Northeaster Weed Science Society, the Southern Weed Science Society, the Western Weed Society of Weed Science and the Aquatic Plant Management Society.

Weed control career specialists like Tom Bauman, Tom Jordan, Glenn Nice and Bill Johnson at Purdue University regularly attend meetings of the appropriate societies that they are involved in. Having attended these meetings myself, they are a compendium of the latest research in the field. It's not just about the next chemical that might control weeds, it's about the next weed a chemical might not control, or about invasive species, or about cutting-edge research aimed at topics all over the board. Some tie weed science to ecology, some to environmental stewardship, some to safety.

The lead-off hitter issue for the weed societies in their appeal for reinstatement of funds is herbicide resistance. Weed specialists say these resistant weeds need to be tracked, and new management programs adopted that can stave of resistance. The list of weeds somewhere in the world resistant to glyphosate grows annually. It's a fact of life of the weed control game- when you deal with huge numbers in terms of seeds and weed plants, sooner or later you will run into resistant mutants. It takes research and skill to know how to reduce the chances that resistance will develop quickly.

The WSSA release insists that the proposed budget would virtually eliminate nearly all funding in the federal budget for weed science research. While the programs that would be cut have long names and some involve basic research, others applied research, what's troubling to weed scientists is that apparently someone with clout in USDA no longer considers these issues important.

WSSA hopes to convince them that all the problems of the world with weeds aren't solved, hoping to restore as much funding as possible.