Walking down the rows of just-harvested cotton field, Ken Smith bends down picks up the carcass of a long-dead Palmer amaranth or pigweed.
"As you can see, the farmer is conscious of keeping the field clean," says the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture weed scientist. "What I'd like to suggest is to take another step and manage the ditch banks and the turn-rows."
Videographer Chris Isaac and I spent a morning with Smith and Claude Kennedy, director of the University of Arkansas Lon Mann Cotton Research Station in Marianna talking about glyphosate-resistant pigweed.
We came away with an ongoing success story of farmers dealing with what has become the No. 1 problem in the Mid-South agriculture.
The fight against glyphosate-resistance has required many steps over the past several years. Each step has helped farmers manage a weed that Smith describes as a "survivor."
In fact, if you had to design the perfect weed, Palmer amaranth would likely appear in the dictionary with a photo beside its description.
Since glyphosate-resistant pigweed took the Mid-South by storm several years ago, farmers have been in a perpetual state of looking for something that works No longer is harvest a chance to let up on weed control. With glyphosate-resistant pigweed, it becomes a year-long job.
Weed scientists such as Smith and others in the Mid-South are calling for farmers to overlap residual herbicides, manage escapes with hoe crews and don't let the soil seedbank build up.
Success of a Zero Tolerance program in Arkansas. "If we can just manage the soil seed bank, we can get a handle on it," Smith says. "But what happens in the ditch banks and other fields where the soil seed bank isn't managed."
Smith is even looking at fire as a way to reduce pigweed seeds.
Some large farmers have gone so far as to combine weed control efforts to make sure pigweed doesn't take over large sections of land.
Still, the ditch banks and turn rows where the tiny seed are controlled give rise to more pigweed next year.
"…Manage the ditch banks and the turn rows," Smith says.