"It is a big concern to me (and many others) that corn and soybean producers in the Midwest and many cotton producers in the South remain highly reliant on glyphosate for weed control."
So begins an open letter to U.S. farmers from noted Australian weed scientist Stephen Powles with a warning of the "coming epidemic" for relying too heavily on one technology.
His warning covers all U.S. farmers basically. In our exclusive video, Farm Progress editorial director Willie Vogt features Powles, in his own words. Powles talks about a wide range of issues that involve combating herbicide resistance. At the core of his message: "When something's working, change it."
Powles leads a large research team at the Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative at the University of Australia. He was the first to write about glyphosate-resistant weeds and has been sounding the call to "change it up" with multiple chemistries. (We featured Powles in a piece in the November 2011 issue of the Mid-South Farmer.)
"Unless there is immediate action, there is going to be widespread glyphosate failure," Powles says. "Without immediate action, the era where major crop weeds are removed by glyphosate is coming to an end in the Cotton Belt!"
Glyphosate worked by itself for almost 15 years, until weeds found a way to evolve around its effectiveness, Powles says. Overuse means U.S. farmers will be forced to use more and more diverse and integrated weed control.
Powles says new technologies will help, but urges producers to make changes now to try to keep glyphosate working on their farm. "If you make significant changes now, you might preserve glyphosate and you will certainly put off the unwelcome day when you have major glyphosate failure.
"We need to act now!" Powles says. "If we do not, we will have an epidemic of glyphosate-resistant weeds that will severely hurt our businesses, degrade our farms and put at risk vital U.S. food exports to a needy world."