Chuck Denney-Narrator (UT Institute of Agriculture)
A problem, but with a purpose. UT AgResearcher Larry Steckel is allowing ryegrass to thrive in this experimental winter wheat crop. One part of the field was treated with herbicides. The other wasn’t. Dr. Steckel wants to observe how this harmful weed can choke a field.
Dr. Larry Steckel (UT Extension)
“The ryegrass is a real issue for our wheat growers in the mid-south and in Tennessee particularly. And one of the big reasons, again, is herbicide resistance.”
That’s a common problem for today’s farmers. Weeds like palmer pigweed have adapted over time. Roundup Ready herbicides - which used to be very effective - now hardly phase the plant. Palmer grows crazy fast in hot, wet weather - inches a day. And once this weed is four inches high, it might as well be four feet.
Dr. Larry Steckel
“The significance of that is once palmer pigweed gets four, four-and-a-half inches tall, there is no herbicide that will control it.”
UT AgResearchers are now advising Tennessee farmers to treat palmer with herbicides that were widely-used decades ago. Those seem to work best, but there’s the expense - pushing fifty bucks an acre sometimes. Just how big is this problem? Weeds cost Tennessee farmers $150 million a year more than just three years ago. That includes the cost of the herbicides and the crops that have been lost when weeds took over fields.
UT AgResearch is looking into herbicide resistant varieties, but also cultural practices such as tillage, cover crops, row width and crop rotation in the battle against weeds. UT’s Dr. Bob Hayes says this research is critical to protect our environment, and maintain decent yields for producers.
Dr. Bob Hayes (UT AgResearch)
“That takes a number of years of evaluation and testing of that material. It starts out with the regulated trials, and then we’ve got to put all those components together in a system in a field and prove that concept works in the real world.”
Meantime, the real world for farmers is one where palmer pigweed will be around for perhaps a good decade or so. Producers will have to farm with the expectation of having a weed problem, and look forward to the day when technology catches up with some of these harmful plants.