Managing Weed Resistance with Integrated Weed Management

Wheat in the USA

The cultivation of wheat reaches far back into human history and its importance hasn’t decreased since then. With more than 220 million hectares of arable land under wheat cultivation, it is the largest cereal crop in terms of area and one of the world`s most important staple foods. Most of the wheat we find in our food was grown in the U.S. And as the second largest wheat-growing country, it generates a total value of more than 10 billion dollars each year, of which nearly 50% is exported worldwide.

Challenge

The wheat-grower Gordon Stoner has 12,000 acres of farmland located in the northeastern part of Montana. This state is one of five U.S. states that grow half the country’s entire wheat crop. But farms like Gordon Stoner’s face a huge problem with increasing weed resistance. “Farmers in Montana and in other parts of the US are having a real resistance problem, because they haven’t been diverse enough in their ways of controlling weeds,“ he says. Dramatic yield losses of up to 100% are forcing farmers to now look for solutions, like new herbicides. Yet, finding the next generation of herbicides that work on resistant weeds isn’t an easy task – none have been discovered for the past 30 years. And today even a herbicide like this would need sustainable, integrated measures to keep its effect.

Solution

Harry Strek, the Scientific Director of the Weed Resistance Competence Center and a strong promoter of Integrated Weed Management (IWM), understands the issue of how weeds impact our food production system. “Weeds, with their capacity to quickly adapt and become resistant, are one of the most pressing challenges in agriculture, I want to help solve this issue“, he says. Working on identifying resistance mechanisms in weeds, he takes the field problems into the lab, and brings lab-derived solutions back out into the field. “My job is to help farmers who are affected by resistance issues. But finding a solution that helps them control weeds once these are resistant is not easy.  Integration of various measures in weed control–with techniques like crop rotation, diversifying herbicidal modes of action and crop seedbed management–is key!” That’s why, besides studying weeds in his lab, Harry strongly advocates for sustainable weed control on social media.

“As important as it is to adapt new and forward-thinking solutions, it’s necessary to communicate them to farmers and all relevant stakeholders.” Commenting further regarding his communication initiatives, he added “That’s why we produce educational podcasts, animated infographics and informative stories about farmers and their weed management issues from all over the world.”