I learned about the Santa Claus treatment for weed control during the first interview I did as an agricultural journalist. An editor with an odd sense of humor ordered me to do an article on how to chop weeds out of beans. Unknown to me, the assignment was a practical joke and the boss never dreamed I’d actually come back with a story.
He didn’t know how many rows of beans I’d walked growing up on the farm. He also had no idea how much I wanted to prove myself. Mostly, he underestimated Marshal McGlamery, then the weed specialist at the University of Illinois.
“Don’t you know about the Santa Claus treatment,” McGlamery asked when I showed up in his office. “Hoe. Hoe. Hoe.”
Go ahead and groan, but believe it or not, the hoe has resurfaced as a tool in southern soybean and cotton fields. Larry Steckel, University of Tennessee extension weed specialist, says weed resistance issues are so bad that growers have resorted to hand weeding—to the tune of $50 to $100 per acre. As I recall, the going rate when I was a kid was a nickel for every five rows. Dad kept five children busy doing this most summers.
Roundup Ready made that kind of work ethic obsolete for at least a decade. Now resistance has turned some fields into weed jungles. Dad would have never been able to find us in the Palmer amaranth choked fields I saw this summer.
“Too bad we can’t find a way to extend Palmer’s drought tolerance characteristics to row crops,” says Steckel. “Originally a desert plant, it really goes to town when conditions turn hot and dry.”
Steckel and other weed specialists are working hard to get the message out about integrating burn down and pre emergence programs into herbicide programs. “I don’t worry about glyphosate resistance any more,” Steckel says. “That horse is out of the barn. Our goal now is to keep all the tools we’ve got and use them wisely.”
He says growers in his state are now rushing to the Liberty Link system and Ignite. “I’m afraid many of my growers are falling in love too with this system too fast,” Steckel says. “My guess it will be three years before we see a [resistance] problem with Ignite if we keep using it like this in Tennessee.”
Bayer CropScience has launched a resistance management program called “Respect the Rotation.” Andy Hurst, product manager for Bayer, says the goal of the program is to preserve the utility of glyphosate herbicide and promote proper stewardship of viable technologies. Herbicide mode of action (MOA) rotation and crop rotation is essential to improve weed resistance management.
The message here: rotate, rotate, rotate so you don’t have to hoe, hoe, hoe.