With proliferation of resistant weed varieties in cropland across much of the South, and the need to increase the number of herbicide modes of action on cotton, corn and soybeans, farmers are scrambling to find a safe way to treat their crops without the high risk of contaminating other crops sensitive to specific chemicals required for a multi-mode weed management program.
"The problem is this: some plants are tolerant to glyphosate and/or glufosinate herbicide, and some fields are tolerant to the use of 2, 4-D, dicamba, and FOP herbicides, or a combination of herbicides used in rotation within a crop. But when farmers alternate chemicals of different modes of action, they run the risk of endangering susceptible crops in adjacent fields," said Ray Smith, Chairman of the Board of the Texas Plant Protection Association (TPPA), and a primary figure behind an effort to find a safe method to use a multi-mode of action weed plan in Texas—without the high risk of exposure to crops that are not tolerant by using the Flag the Technology app program.
Smith said months of research and planning went into development of a system designed to help farmers track their fields (or their neighbors fields) to identify whether they are safe for application of new multiple modes of action or not.
FLAG THE TECHNOLOGY
That research has developed into a free Flag the Technology smart phone app that can help farmers adopt a weed management plan based upon the type of traits in the crop they are growing. The app will also provide information (colored flags) about which mode of action to use and which to avoid.
"This kind of information can prevent farmers from using a chemical that should not be applied to a particular crop with certain technology traits. They can target their spray efforts more accurately and prevent exposure and damage to fields sensitive to particular modes of action," Smith said.
Smith was the catalyst behind developing the Flag the Technology app in Texas after working with University of Arkansas weed scientist Dr. Bob Scott, who developed the initial flag system. That system involved using physical flags in the field to identify which traits were safe for application. The end goal was to make certain only the correct herbicide is used on the target crop and to help manage risks to neighboring crops.
ADAPTING ARKANSAS PROGRAM
"The system in Arkansas worked well, but I felt that to make it easier and more efficient for producers, we needed something else. A farmer needed access to that kind of information when he is in the field and at other times and places. By developing a smart phone app, we could create a network to minimize mistakes related to herbicide selection and identify the safe areas and danger areas where those chemicals could and could not be used,” he said.
After searching for an app developer, Smith realized the cost involved was significant, and he contacted colleagues at Texas A&M who had previously developed a program in support of the Texas Crop Registry, a volunteer program that allows producers with sensitive crop areas to register specific crops, including non-GMO acres, orchards and others.
But Smith said the Texas Crop Registry had to be changed to fit cell phone capability. Dr. Bob Coulson, AgriLife Research entomologist, modified a program and renamed it Hit the Target Crop Registry, which adapted well to the Flag the Technology app developed by Dr. Todd Sink, AgriLife Extension.
UP AND RUNNING
The app is now ready for farmer and crop specialist download.
Flag the Technology allows farmers to log into the new app and register, then mark their fields with either physical flags in their fields or virtual flags on their app program. They input the specifics of their crop.
At that point farmers can decide to share that information with others, but only those they want to include in their network. A virtual colored-coded flag will be posted on the app map, indicating the type of crop trait the farmer is growing.
"Farmers decide whether they want to pick up a real flag from their rep or distributor to place in their fields for all to see, or whether to just use the app map and the virtual flags to share with neighbors of their choosing. This serves to protect their information and share only what they want and with whom they choose to share," Smith said.
The idea is to provide producers with a safe way to share information without the fear of publishing proprietary information about their farm operation, and to share it only with a select group of other producers—or none at all.
"The end result is the best, the safest, and the most effective way to utilize new technologies that takes advantage of multiple modes of action while protecting crops that are sensitive to specific products," Smith said.
The old flag program worked well in Arkansas; however, the use of the smart phone app promises to work even better in Texas and other states that adopt the Flag the Technology program.
USER FRIENDLY APP
"The message we want to get out to the producer right now is this app is a secure, safe, effective and an easy tool to use. It can be used on both Android and Apple smart phones and is available for download right now at the Apple Store and the Google Play store," Smith said.
Learning the color code used for the flags is not difficult to master, and the benefits include protecting plants and helping neighbors.
Flag identification is as follows:
- White - Technology is tolerant to glyphosate herbicides.
- Green - Tolerant to glufosinate herbicide, Liberty.
- Yellow - Clearfield rice, sunflowers, wheat and canola, which are tolerant to imidazolinone herbicides.
- Teal - Tolerant to both 2, 4-D and FOP (ACCase) herbicides, or Enlist technology. The white stripes indicate tolerance to glyphosate, Roundup. For Enlist cotton traits and soybean fields, a green flag should be added to denote tolerance to glufosinate herbicide (Liberty).
- Black and white checkered -Tolerant to dicamba (Enginia and Extendimax) and glyphosate, (Roundup Ready Xtend).
- Red - Extreme caution required. Indicates conventional crops with no herbicide tolerant traits as well as sensitive production areas such as vegetables, vineyards, apiaries and organic production.
For more information: http://bit.ly/2j9Sce0