I recently took a two-day tour with a group of farmers and consultants that was very educational and provided me a couple of opportunities I may not have had otherwise.
We traveled from central Arkansas, to Stuttgart, Ark., across to Tunica, Miss., through Memphis to Jonesboro, Ark., to Corning, Ark., and up to Poplar Bluff, Mo., across the top of the Bootheel, and back down I-55 and I-40 home.
While I have seen a lot of these areas in bits and pieces this summer, it was the first big swing I have made. The trip reinforced my conviction that Roundup Ready cotton and soybeans are relegated to redundancy on the Mid-South. While the technology will continue to be used, much of the value is gone and the technology may never be what it once was here.
On the entire trip, it was difficult to find a field that you could see zero pigweeds in. Even the clean, good-looking fields had scattered pigweeds in them.
Folks, if you do not believe the seriousness of the pigweed problem just get out and ride around. It is pretty amazing to hear some companies spinning that the problem is being overblown.
We also looked at a lot of zero grade rice that had been in continuous Clearfield rice from the beginning of the technology. Some of these fields were just in the beginning stages of resistant red rice and in other fields the technology has completely blown up. It was interesting to hear some of these excellent growers comment that they were almost out of business due to red rice before Clearfield rice.
My question was “where are you going to be when the resistant red rice populations get to that level?”. Essentially they are betting that something will come along to bail them out. I hope it does, but I am not optimistic. The stakes for not changing your program before you are in the ditch are much higher now than when the herbicide technology pipeline was full.
I am continuously asked, “What are you going to do about this problem?” The problem is the resistant weeds that are taking fields by storm. I wish we had good answers. However, the question really boils down to what you, as growers, are going to do. Are you going to continue down the same road until you are in the ditch, or are you going to change and try to get ahead of the problem?
The growers on this trip were all, for the most part, zero grade continuous rice growers. They are all progressive and also know they are getting in trouble doing the same thing over and over. This trip provided me an opportunity to hear some of the reasons why they can not always do all of the things we suggest.
Most of these guys know they need to try to learn how to grow soybeans in some of these zero grade fields. There is the agronomic side of the issue, but in many cases there is a huge landlord side of the issue.
Landlords get more income off rice and in many cases have demanded rice be grown in these fields year after year. It is obvious that when you talk to a grower about planning resistance management programs five years into the future, the landlords are going to have to be a huge part of that equation.
Another thing I did recently was speak to the Arkansas Farm Bureau Young Farmers and Ranchers group on herbicide resistance. The first comment I made was we needed more young farmers and ranchers. The second comment was in the form of a question: “How many of you want to be old farmers and ranchers?”
The point was not how many want to live to be old but how many want to be in business when they get there. The message was, “If you do, then you had better learn how to prevent and manage herbicide resistant weeds.”