On the lookout for herbicide resistant weeds

Roundup, and its generic twin glyphosate, are a potential threat to no-till. Over the past few years, farmers in southern states have begun to abandon no-till because glyphosate won’t control the broad leaf weeds that populate soybean, cotton and cornfields.

I sent an email this week to the Soil & Water Conservation Society and Conservation Tillage Information Center suggesting that we in the Midwest get out in front of this issue. Here’s an article that appeared in the N.Y. Times about the nationwide problem.

In order that we don’t backslide from the improvements in agriculture we’ve made, with no-till and cover crop acres, we’ll need to be proactive. Farmers using annual ryegrass and other cover crops will have to be diligent about the burndown process, making sure the crop is killed and not allowing it to resprout. We may also be looking at finding alternative herbicides that can take care of residual growth.

The improvements in soil biology, clean water and clean air are reason enough to continue advocating for cover crops like annual ryegrass, cereal rye, clover, vetch and radishes. The harvest bonuses and lower costs for fertilizer inputs are additional benefits. It would be a shame to have farmers who’ve invested the time to get cover crops established to go backwards, sacrificing soil and environmental improvement because of the infestation of uncontrolled weeds.

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