Lee Briese has about 20 different ideas on ways to control herbicide resistant weeds.
Using more herbicide isn’t one of them.
“When a herbicide is broken,” Briese says, “you can’t fix it with more herbicides.”
Instead, the solution is a more “everything in the toolbox” approach.
Briese – a Centrol crop consultant based out of Jamestown, N.D. – was one of the breakout session presenters at Sow What Now?, a recent one-day conference in Fargo, N.D., on resistant weed management. It was organized by Greg LaPlante, a Wahpeton, N.D., agronomist, and sponsored by the North Dakota Soybean Council and Bayer CropScience.
“I only use a herbicide when I have to,” Briese says.
Briese – who describes himself as the “crazy agronomist" -- is excited about the ability of cover crops to control weeds, improve soil health and increase yields all at the same time.
“Name anything else that can do that for about $7/a per acre?” he asks, referring to the cost of rye seed.
Briese and some of the farmers he works with have been using rye and other cover crops for several years.
Their goals are to keep the soil covered all year around and to have something living growing on fields as long as possible
“Black soil is an invitation to Mother Nature to fill the space. She does it with weeds,” Briese says.
Briese encourages farmers to think of different, even seemingly crazy, ways to control weeds without using a herbicide.
Rye has a natural allopathic effect on weeds. Rye puts out its own herbicide to reduce competition.
A thick crop canopy will shade out weeds.
You could kill weeds with steam, he says, but he isn't sure how -- yet.
You could wilt them with ultra violet light. He imagines something like a tanning bed on wheels.
You can cut them off with a weed whacker mounted shafts between crop rows. “You could make this is your own shop,” he says.
You could collect weed seeds with the combine and haul them off the fields. They do it in Australia.
You could run weed seed through a hammer mill right on the combine.
You could zap weeds with electricity or burn them with a flame thrower. Commercial models of both are available.
You could sandblast them.
You could freeze them. A shot of anhydrous ammonia might do the trick, Briese says.
You could surround your fields with living snow fences. Several thick rows of corn or sunflowers would catch catch and prevent tumbleweeds from rolling across your fields in the fall and spreading resistant kochia seed.
You can manage resistant weeds, he says.
“You just have to start thinking about it creatively.”
Success may require a change in the way you think about farming and weeds.
“I want to manage an ecosystem,” Briese says. “I don’t want to manage herbicides.”