This Missouri farmer shows that what works for the fields today can work for a sustainable future.
It’s a beautiful day in western Missouri as wispy clouds and a mild breeze take the edge off the midday heat. As far down as the eye can see, between the corn and soybean rows on Doug Roth’s farm, there’s nothing but soil; the usual waterhemp is nowhere in sight. For the Roths, that makes this an even more beautiful day.
Roth’s great-grandfather moved to this community of Harrisonville, about 30 miles south of Kansas City, in 1908 and worked on various farms. Then he bought his first farm in the 1920s. The ground Doug Roth is standing on is farmland that his grandfather eventually bought. Today, as the fourth generation running this operation, Doug has an interesting perspective that he gained as a kid listening to the grown-ups talk about farm life.
“My grandfather would say that, in a family business, often the first generation are the innovators,” Roth shares. “They create some wealth. Then the second generation gets pretty comfortable and lives off that wealth. And the third generation will typically be the end of the family business. So I don’t know where that leaves us as the fourth generation!”
On the serious side, Roth knows that to survive, much less thrive, any generation of farmers needs to act like the first generation and innovate wherever they can. And for the Roths, one need was finding an innovative solution that would combat resistant weeds and end the misery of waterhemp, which was robbing them of precious yield, particularly in their soybeans.
The solution they landed on in 2017 was dicamba-tolerant beans and Engenia®[JD1] herbicide. And one of their first steps after deciding to try the new system in some acres was attending a local BASF-sponsored training session. “They had really good information, test equipment and displays to illustrate things like what boom pressure does to droplet size, and a lot more,” Roth explains. “It was really important training for our guys here on the farm who do the applying.”
“With that training we had confidence, and in our fields where we tried the product, we had pretty good results,” Roth continues. For 2018, the updated federal label upped the training requirement, establishing new restrictions and making the training mandatory for everyone applying the dicamba formulations. “Our results this year have been very, very good,” Roth offers. “I’m really, really pleased with what we’re doing in our soybeans right now for weed control of waterhemp.”
Roth quoted a fellow farmer and good friend of his, who summed it up this way: “If you think chemicals are expensive, try growing weeds. Weeds are far more expensive than treating them."
Beyond the chemistry and innovation, Roth also understands there’s an important guardrail that farmers must factor into this, and any, technology usage, and that’s stewardship. “How I would define stewardship,” Roth states, “is taking care of things, not assuming that you're the last to consume it, that there's going to be a lot of folks coming behind me, and they may or may not be family.”
For Roth, it comes down to this: What's going to allow the operation to continue on? What's going to allow the soil to continue to be healthy and productive long after we're gone?
Count dicamba-tolerant beans and Engenia herbicide among the innovations that are helping the Roths and countless other growers ensure a good future—for the crops, for the land, for their business success and for their legacies.
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