An Arkansas-based weed specialist is encouraging Ontario farmers to change their ways and reduce their reliance upon a single weed control.
“You can change, or you can follow us over the cliff,” Ford Baldwin said at at a tour of the Bayer CropScience research farm near Guelph this week.
“We did away with one of the best pest management systems in the world. It came to a screeching halt about 30 years ago,” said Baldwin, a retired University of Arkansas weed scientist.
The problem, he said, is that one herbicide was just too good. “Our farmers got complacent,” he said. “Roundup turned bad farmers into good farmers.”
He said that farmers through the American South began to think of Roundup as a magic bullet. It always kept the weeds away so farmers always used it. But, little by little, the weeds came back, and this new generation of weeds is resistant to any herbicide farmers can throw at it. In some parts of the South they have resorted to pulling weeds by hand.
“We are definitely in a crisis,” said Baldwin. “And we haven’t had a new technology come down the pipe in 30 years.”
Farmers, he said, have to stay one step ahead of the weeds. Just because there are no weeds in the field this year, doesn’t mean there won’t be next year. It’s important that farmers everywhere use an pest management system that changes from year to year so that the weeds don’t develop a genetic resistance.
“Change your program before you see the weeds,” he counselled. “If you keep doing the same thing over and over again you’re going to see problems. If you don’t control the weeds, they will take over.”