Farm Progress is part of the Informa Markets Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them. Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Serving: United States


Articles from 2005 In November

South Korea Delays Beef Trade Resumption Announcements

Talk of South Korea ending its ban on beef from the United States is again put off after Korean farmers threatened national demonstrations if the ban is lifted. 

South Korea's animal quarantine committee met Tuesday, expected by many to lift the ban. Instead the committee scheduled another meeting in two weeks to address the issue.

Asia Pulse reports member of the quarantine committee expressed concerns over the U.S. slaughter process. The panel also "engaged in heated debate, with one faction accusing another of caving in to political pressure from the Bush administration," reports.

Media reports of potential lifting the ban sent South Korean beef prices 10% lower in October. Asia Pulse reports that the number of farms raising cattle has sharply risen over the past few years, in line with the high Korean beef price levels. Korean producers' profits dropped from 4.5 million won to 3.94 million won (about $3,770 US$) for a 1,000 pound animal. Both increased supplies and the expectation that Korea will soon reopen its market brought the price change.

Officials say the average price of beef may fall as much as 40% when shipments of U.S. beef resume. Prices of pork and chicken also are expected to fall more modestly as demand decreases.

Halloween rainfall brightens prospects for 2006 wheat crop

Prospects for 2006 improved by more than an inch during the hour or so Kenneth Griffin discussed the outlook for next year’s wheat and corn crops.

That’s what the rain gauge measured about halfway through a Halloween storm that brought most of Northeast Texas some much-needed moisture that should get the wheat crop up and begin replenishing soil moisture depleted by a three-month drought.

But Griffin sees more challenges ahead for his Collin County farm.

Low commodity prices top the list, Griffin says. That, coupled with production costs significantly higher than last year, create what might be a dire outlook.

“But I’m not big on doomsday predictions,” Griffin says. “My first inclination would be to draw in and plant a cheap crop. But that’s not a good plan and I’ll hold on with what I’ve done for the past few years.”

He’ll plant 30 percent of his acreage in wheat and 70 percent in corn.

“I hope energy and fertilizer prices decline before planting time,” Griffin says. “Either prices have to go up or inputs have to come down.”

He bought diesel in late summer. “It had dropped below $2 a gallon. But I need to price some more, now,” he says. “I’m running a bit low.”

He made a quick call to a local supplier and found diesel for just above $2.10 a gallon, a bit cheaper than he had expected but still a substantial increase over what he’s been used to.

Griffin says the cost/price squeeze comes at a particularly bad time for Northern Blacklands corn farmers who made far less than normal yields from the drought-ravaged 2005 crop.

Expect setbacks

“But in this part of the state we know we’ll get a bad year and will miss a crop,” he says. “Most farmers have decent yield histories and can weather a bad year with crop insurance. We had three good years in a row.”

He says cutting back on inputs could hurt more than help.

“We can’t cut back in agriculture,” he says. “We have to make the yield.”

He’ll likely reduce tillage but says the heavy clay soils do not lend themselves to no-till farming. “We have to manage the residue and the land just doesn’t dry out if we don’t till it,” he says. “Insect problems also seem worse in reduced-till fields.”

He may need to escalate his corn rootworm control program a bit next year anyway. He’s using a seed treatment, Poncho, and says the technology represents one of the most important advances he’s seen in corn production. “Treated seed makes a huge difference,” he says. “We don’t have to handle insecticides any more and that’s huge.”

He says Poncho 250 has done a good job controlling chinch bugs and other pests except rootworms. In fields that had heavy infestations last year he’ll switch to Poncho 1250. “I’ll also rotate fields that have been in corn for three years,” he says.

He uses Pioneer corn hybrids and the seed comes pre-treated.

Cutting back on fertility with corn makes little sense to Griffin. “I’ll stay with the same program I’ve used for the past few years,” he says. He usually puts down 200 to 250 pounds of nitrogen behind the planter and adds about 550 pounds of 32.

Wheat fertility

He changed wheat fertility slightly, cutting preplant application a little. “I don’t like to have all my fertilizer out early,” he says. “I can lose too much that way. I always top dress and if we get plenty of rain and the crop looks promising I can add more fertilizer in-season.”

He thinks he’ll pick up some residual nutrients from the corn crop that didn’t yield to expectations. “And we had no hard rains to drive the nitrate deep into the soil,” he says.

Texas integrated pest management agent Jim Swart, who works out of the Texas A&M-Commerce campus, says farmers can be flexible with pre-plant wheat fertility. “We can get too much nitrogen on wheat,” Swart says.

Griffin plans to monitor wheat conditions next spring to determine if he can justify a fungicide application. Most farmers in the area who applied fungicides last year indicate the investment paid dividends, especially on stripe rust infestations. “We sprayed Quilt one time and it paid off,” Griffin said. “We’ll just wait to see what we need to do.”

Swart says stripe rust first showed up in a heavy infestation in 2000. “We used to see it occasionally and then it would go away,” he says. “But in 2000 it came in and stayed.”

Griffin planted one stripe rust resistant variety, Pioneer 25R49. “Unfortunately, it has terrible leaf rust tolerance,” Swart says.

Griffin also planted Pioneer 25R47 and is trying 25R63 this year.

Corn hybrids

He’ll use three or four corn hybrids, including Pioneer 31G65, a Roundup Ready hybrid that “excelled last year. It seems to be more drought tolerant,” Griffin says. “I’ll go heavier with it this year but no more than 50 percent of my acreage.”

He also plans to use Pioneer 31R87 and maybe 31G71, a stacked gene hybrid.

He’s not certain about the Bt corn yet. “I want to see more research on it,” he says. “I’d like to see how it expresses itself in the ear. If it keeps earworms out, I’ll plant some. I have to look at it.”

He’s staying with usual seeding rates. On bin-caught wheat seed, he drilled 110 pounds per acre. On certified seed, he cuts back to 85 to 90 pounds per acre.

“It’s often hard to control planting depth in our variable soils,” he says. “We need extra seed to make certain we get a stand. Seed, especially bin-run, is pretty cheap insurance.”

Corn seeding rate remains at 25,000 seed per acre.

He relies almost exclusively on Roundup for weed control and keeps the process as simple as possible. “I may use a little atrazine. I’ve even cut out spot treatments for johnsongrass. It saves a trip and I can clean it up with Roundup. Corn grows quickly and shades out weeds.”

His wheat/corn rotation also helps with weed management. “We still need something to control ryegrass in wheat,” he says. “Rotation is still our best management technique.”

Used equipment

Griffin keeps equipment costs as low as possible. “I’ve been picking up used, low hour combines and tractors. I will buy a new planter.”

He says a 24-row planter improves efficiency. “We get less wear and tear on a big planter than we would a smaller one. It takes less time to cover the same ground.”

Griffin says he’s basically optimistic about agriculture, but he’s also realist enough to recognize that conditions must change for farmers to survive.

“With higher inputs and lower prices, we’ve gone past tough. We’re doing more chores that we used to hire custom operators to do.”

He says cooperative arrangements among farmers may help and says a three-farmer investment in a grain elevator has improved his market options.

“We can’t do like we used to and just cut back on inputs and still make it. We have to have the yields. In the 1980s, we could pencil in a $100 per acre profit on corn and make a good living on 1,000 acres. Then profit potential dropped to $50 an acre and we had to double the acreage.”

That equation continues to plague Griffin and other farmers and he says at some point they’ll have to pull in and get by on less.

“We’ve streamlined all we can,” he says. “Now, things will have to change if we stay in business. Either prices have to go up or input costs have to go down; otherwise, we’ll have to find something else to do. I think we’re going to see changes.”


USDA expands national soybean rust risk management tool

USDA is again funding projects to track the spread of soybean rust and create the Pest Information Platform for Extension and Education to provide producers with information about additional legume pests and diseases in 2006, officials announced.

The nationally coordinated network will help producers in making crop management decisions that reduce pesticide input costs, reduce environmental exposure to pesticides and increase the efficiency and efficacy of pesticide applications.

“The soybean rust sentinel plots, mobile team monitoring program and online reporting system are important tools for our producers,” said Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns. “Timely information is essential to help farmers combat plant diseases and we are committed to providing it.”

The risk management tool component of the network is an online, real-time data system that allows growers and their advisors to access the latest information, to the county level, of where there are confirmed disease and/or pest outbreaks. The mapping tool will include frequently updated commentaries from state extension specialists and national specialists discussing immediate and projected risks and control options. USDA’s Risk Management Agency funded this $2.4 million component.

To compliment the network, USDA will continue to conduct teleconferences, workshops and organize extension field visits to prepare first detectors to scout for pest and disease problems, to obtain diagnostic confirmation when a suspected problem is found and to manage the information for timely incorporation into the risk management map.

Training modules will also be produced for crop advisors and producers about how to use the map system and what the risk management alternatives are, based on a three-tiered (low, medium, high) risk advisory.

The risk management mapping tool will continue to help improve crop protection by educating farmers about risk-management strategies and providing timely information about good farming practices specific to current crop pest and disease risk status. Farmers will have the information needed so they spray only when the risk is imminent, and reduce the overall number of sprays or other pest control interventions.

This tool will increase farmers’ awareness of more precise management practices and will provide documentation for potential crop insurance claims. USDA and Extension specialists will provide information to assist certified organic farmers in making decisions about planting schedules and geographic risk for disease and pest outbreak.

The soybean rust risk management tool is available online at USDA’s Cooperative State Research, Education and Extension Service, RMA, and Animal Plant Health Inspection Service are working together to implement the system. CSREES is implementing its part of the system through its land-grant university partners, the Cooperative Extension System, the Regional Integrated Pest Management Centers, and the National Plant Diagnostic Network.

National Weather Service has precipitation Web page

High-quality precipitation analyses used for flood forecasts, drought monitoring and climate trends are being made available on NOAA's National Weather Service Web site on a trial basis through June 2006.

During this time, comments regarding the service will be collected to determine whether it effectively meets users' needs and whether the service should be continued after the trial period. Fine resolution precipitation data will help government agencies, river authorities, agribusiness, hydro-power utility companies and others make better, more cost- effective decisions about water management and the impacts of water surpluses and shortages. Emergency management agencies will be able to monitor impending flood conditions and conduct more effective operations during floods.

"Water resource managers can use this information to optimize water allocation to meet competing municipal, industrial and environmental demands," states Thomas Graziano, Ph.D., chief of the hydrological services program for NOAA's National Weather Service. "The emergency management community and the public at large can more effectively anticipate and respond to flood situations."

The precipitation analysis combines high resolution radar observations from 150 National Weather Service Doppler radars and measurements from more than 4,000 rain gauges. Data resolution is approximately 4 kilometers (2.2 miles), and the analysis is updated daily for the contiguous states and Puerto Rico.

The Web site provides access to graphics of precipitation totals for the previous day, the last seven days, the last 14 days, the current month to date, and the current year to date. Graphics are also available comparing precipitation estimates to normal precipitation, as a percentage of normal, and departure from normal. Users have the option of downloading the information shown in these graphics in geographic information systems (GIS) format as well as in NetCDF, a format used widely within the meteorological community.

NOAA's National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. NOAA's National Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with our federal partners and nearly 60 countries to develop a global Earth observation network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

U.S. launches West Africa Cotton Improvement Program

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns and U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman announced the launch of the West Africa Cotton Improvement Program, an initiative aimed at shoring up U.S. relations with the cotton sectors of Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali and Senegal.

They made the announcement during a stop in Burkina Faso where Johanns and Portman met with agriculture ministers from the C4 countries – Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali – plus Senegal to discuss the new program and other ways to help cotton producers there.

Johanns said the program is based on an assessment conducted earlier this year by U.S. Agency for International Development and USDA specialists with experts from those countries on ways to improve cotton production, transformation, and marketing in the region.

National Cotton Council leaders issued a press release commending Johanns and Portman for their efforts in developing a program to improve the conditions confronting West African cotton producers. African producers have criticized the U.S. cotton program, blaming it for contributing to poverty in those countries.

“We are pleased to announce the allocation of $7 million – $5 million in fresh funding – to begin the work of this program,” said Johanns. “Because this program is a partnership between our countries, we have asked USAID to hold a conference in this region soon after the Hong Kong Ministerial to get countries’ input on the final touches of the program's design," said Johanns.

Positive U.S. steps

“The West Africa Cotton Improvement Program is one more way the United States is specifically addressing the needs of cotton dependent countries in Africa,” said Portman. "When combined with other measures like debt relief, eligibility for Millennium Challenge Account assistance, Administration efforts to end the Step 2 cotton program, and a bold proposal on agriculture in the World Trade Organization negotiations, the United States has taken real steps that can help West Africa, including its cotton farmers.”

To complement this program, Johanns and Portman announced that the National Cotton Council, which will be a key partner in the WACIP, intends to provide assistance in West Africa during the cotton harvest on recommended measures to control insects and the application of biotechnology.

The program results from more than a year of preparatory work involving the NCC, USDA, US-AID, several U.S. land grant universities and U.S. non-profit organizations, said Council Chairman Woods Eastland.

“The West Africa Cotton Improvement Program is a practical, pragmatic plan that can make a real difference in these citizens’ lives,” he said. “It has the potential to improve the infrastructure that supports cotton production, ultimately returning a higher portion of sales proceeds to individual African cotton producers.”

Since early 2004, the council has been involved in several outreach activities with the West African countries of Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad and Mali. Last summer, cotton classers from the C4 countries spent two weeks at the Cotton Engineered Fiber Conference and at the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service Classing Office in Memphis, Tenn., learning about U.S. cotton classing.

Later training

Since then, specialists from the region have received training on cotton insect problems in Africa and shorter-term chemical and integrated pest management measures at a program conducted by the council with the assistance of USDA and US-AID on soil fertility at Tuskegee University in Alabama.

“All of the U.S. cotton industry’s work has been in close cooperation with USDA and US-AID,” Eastland said. “The United States’ efforts will provide real and meaningful benefits for West African cotton producers.

“However, I want to remind cotton producers around the world that the real challenge we face is to increase demand for our product. Aggressive advertising and promotion is needed to convince consumers of cotton’s benefits over synthetic fibers. The producer-funded campaign operated in the U.S. has helped increase demand in our retail market, but more promotion worldwide is needed.”

Johanns said the West Africa Cotton Improvement Program represents only one part of the overall U.S. response that will help these countries address the development obstacles in their cotton sectors. Other measures include:

-- Assistance through the new Millennium Challenge Corp. The development agency offers an opportunity for many key countries to address long-term development obstacles in cotton.

“It will result in hundreds of millions of dollars flowing into the region in grant form in a way set by recipient countries,” he said. “Currently, Benin's proposal stands at $300 million; Mali's proposal at $212 million; and Senegal's proposal at $255 million. The MCC Board of Directors has also selected Burkina Faso as eligible to negotiate a compact with the MCC for a development program.

-- The G-8 debt relief package will result in hundreds of millions of dollars in relief for Benin, Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal. This should free up resources for cotton.

-- The U.S. will be doubling aid to Africa by 2010 under our G-8 commitment. These countries will benefit from this pledge.

-- The new African Global Competitiveness Initiative, a $200 million, 5-year program, is being designed and will also help improve competitiveness and stimulate regional and international trade.

Diversify trade

“This new Initiative will be developed with our African counterparts,” said Johanns. “The program will help selected countries to diversify their trade and remove key barriers to expanding growth. Some of these reforms should have general benefits for a range of sectors, including agriculture and the cotton sector.

-- US-AID will program $200 million a year over the next five years to support the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program, in which African Heads of State agreed to achieve and sustain a 6 percent annual agricultural growth rate.

Eastland said the NCC is also working with USDA and US-AID to offer a cotton ginning “school” in West Africa. This facility would be fashioned after the ginning schools held annually at the three U.S. cotton ginning laboratories cooperatively with USDA and the National Cotton Ginners Association. Plans are under development for follow-up trips to West Africa by U.S. teams to continue training programs.

NCC President and CEO Mark Lange reiterated the U.S. cotton industry’s commitment to share its knowledge and experiences with the West African producers. He also added that hurdles remain within these countries that will take time to overcome.

“The lingering aftermath of French colonialism is evident,” Lange noted. “The continued reliance on a monopolistic, parastatal ginning and marketing system generates lower revenue to cotton farmers. Our efforts can improve the situation but internal reform is also needed.”

During their stop in Burkina Faso, Portman and Johanns met with trade and agriculture ministers from the five countries, listened to their concerns, discussed the U.S. agriculture proposal, and explored ways trade capacity building can be helpful. The WACIP is a direct response to requests made in meetings of the "development track" to cotton at the WTO.

Seven action focus

Based on their assessment of the situations in the five countries, Johanns said the WACIP will focus on seven actions:

1. Reduce soil degradation and expand the use of good agricultural practices.

2. Strengthen private agricultural organizations.

3. Establish a West African regional training program for ginners.

4. Improve the quality of C-4 cotton through better classification of seed cotton and lint.

5. Improve linkages between U.S. and West African agricultural research organizations involved with cotton.

6. Improve the enabling environment for agricultural biotechnology.

7. Policy/Institutional Reform.

A chronology of U.S. NCC efforts to improve African economies

National Cotton Council Chairman Woods Eastland listed a chronology of events of the efforts leading up to the announcement of the West African Cotton Improvement Program in Burkina Faso.

In June 2004, then NCC Chairman Woody Anderson, a Texas producer, participated in a Ministerial Conference on Agricultural Technology in Burkina Faso and traveled to its cotton growing areas with a U.S. delegation. During the conference, a memorandum of understanding between USDA and the African Agricultural Technology Foundation was signed with the intent of accelerating the transfer and dissemination of technologies developed by USDA scientists to West African researchers and the region’s farmers. The West African ministers attending the ministerial adopted a resolution that 1) called for greater research and investment in agricultural biotechnology and 2) recommended the creation of a West African center for biotechnology.

-- In July 2004, the NCC helped organize U.S. cotton industry orientation sessions and a tour of U.S. cotton production, processing, marketing and research facilities for these West African countries’ ambassadors and ministers. They explored ways in which West Africa can modernize its cotton industries. Immediately following its U.S. Cotton Belt tour, the West African contingent met in Washington, D.C., with U.S. cotton industry representatives to discuss investment needs and opportunities, and with U.S. government officials to discuss a range of available technical assistance and capacity building programs.

-- In October 2004, a team of government and cotton industry technical advisors toured several of the West African countries to assess needs and identify both short and long-term opportunities for cooperative efforts and assistance. That tour included Bill Norman, NCC’s vice president of Ginner Services.

-- In January 2005, a high-level U.S. government delegation traveled to Mali to address developmental aspects of the West African cotton industry. The delegation was comprised of officials from USDA, the State Department, US-AID and the NCC. Discussions focused on cooperative project proposals designed to help West African cotton farmers improve their crops by more effective use of fertilizers, water management, biotechnology and integrated pest management.

— In June 2005, cotton classing officials from four West African countries participated in a cotton classification and standards training program co-sponsored by the NCC and organized and funded in cooperation with the USDA Cochran Fellowship Program and US-AID. The West African officials received an orientation to the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service cotton classification and standards program, including High Volume Instrumentation classification procedures, calibration standards and other USDA-AMS cotton program functions. While in Memphis, they participated in the Cotton Incorporated Engineered Fiber Selection conference, observed the Universal Cotton Standards conference and received a NCC orientation.

-- US-AID and NCC, along with Tuskegee University, implemented a two-week training session on integrated pest management with entomologists from the West African region. These scientists are learning ways to incorporate technologies that will foster adoption of integrated pest management principals in cotton production. Training on soil conservation and fertility also is a part of this program.

Column: Democrats propose farm bill extension

They may be of different political persuasions, but many row-crop farmers will applaud the introduction of a one-year extension of the 2002 farm bill by a group of Democratic Congressmen.

Collin Peterson, D-Minn., ranking member on the Agriculture Committee, and Jim Costa, D-Calif., say the extension would provide certainty to farmers and allow U.S. negotiators to focus on the ongoing WTO Doha Development Round negotiations.

“With farmers facing record energy costs, natural disasters, low commodity prices and cuts in farm programs, this bill assures they can count on the farm bill to continue in its current form until we see what the Doha Round could mean for American agriculture,” Peterson said.

The bill would extend the commodity title through crop year 2008 and the remaining titles through either fiscal year or calendar year 2008, depending on their expiration date. An additional one-year extension would occur if the President does not submit implementing legislation based on the outcome of the Doha Round by Jan. 15, 2008.

“An extension will encourage our global trading partners to work toward a level playing field and give us time to analyze the outcome of the Doha Round before rewriting our own farm policy,” said Costa.

The Congressmen said the bill would take some of the pressure off U.S. negotiators by ensuring that U.S. negotiators “do not have to rush through the negotiating process” to deliver a trade pact to Congress before a new farm bill is written.

Administration reaction to the proposed legislation is expected to be lukewarm. Although hundreds of farmers speaking at USDA’s farm bill forums have said they like the current law, Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns says most of the benefits go to a small number of farmers, driving up land prices and frustrating would-be growers.

President Bush has also pledged that the United States will significantly reduce its farm subsidies. And, although the United States tabled a proposal to reduce those by 60 percent in the Doha Round, developing countries, led by Brazil, are demanding it do more.

Peterson, Costa and the bill’s 15 co-sponsors say the United States should not begin to dismantle its farm bill while the Doha Development Round is still being negotiated.

World Trade Organization leaders planned to have an agreement on the agricultural segment of the Doha Round for the Hong Kong Ministerial Conference in mid-December. But the European Union’s reluctance to open its markets to more imports has put that agenda in jeopardy.

Johanns and U.S. Trade Representative Rob Portman told reporters on Nov. 14 that they believe such an agreement can still be reached in the Doha Round in 2006, but that pushes the negotiations back into the timetable Congress was expected to use for writing a new farm bill.

Some will call the farm bill extension — like the Democrats forcing the Senate into a closed session on Iraq — grandstanding. But it’s refreshing to see the minority party proposing alternatives to the status quo.


Mid-South researchers preparing for glyphosate-resistant pigweed

As if Mid-South farmers did not have enough to worry about, they may be dealing with a new species of pigweed: Amaranthus inbetweenus.

Before you rush off to your weed control guide, let me hasten to add that this “new” strain is an attempt at humor from Andy Kendig, weed scientist with the University of Missouri’s Delta Center at Portageville, Mo.

Kendig used the term he coined as part of the lead-in to a discussion of a very serious subject — the specter of glyphosate-resistant pigweed — at the Regional Cotton Pest Management Workshop at the Memphis, Tenn., Agricenter, Nov. 2.

Glyphosate-resistant pigweed has not been found in the Mid-South, although weed specialists have reported escapes in Roundup Ready cotton in Arkansas, according to Ken Smith, Extension weed scientist with the University of Arkansas. It was confirmed in Georgia last summer.

But those reports have gotten the attention of weed specialists and of crop consultants like Chuck Farr of Crawfordsville, Ark. “If we get glyphosate-resistant pigweed, we’re out of business in northeast Arkansas,” he said during a panel discussion at the workshop.

Whether resistance is just around the corner or not, Kendig says Mid-South growers have been fighting an uphill battle in their efforts to control pigweed since the 1990s.

“When I was in graduate school in the 1980s, the answer to questions about controlling pigweed was to ‘spray something,’” he said. “But, in the 1990s, pigweed became one of the most troublesome weeds in the Mid-South.

“We were having problems controlling pigweed before Roundup Ready came along, and, with the advent of the Roundup Ready system, pigweed hasn’t disappeared and continues to be troublesome.

One reason is that pigweeds are genetically diverse, says Kendig. “The Southern Weed Guide shows 10 species, the botany textbooks list 18 and some people even grow amaranth species for grain.”

Because of that diversity, pigweeds can often crossbreed with each other, hence Kendig’s term, Amaranthus inbetweenus. “Spend a little time looking, and you will see species that are clearly half-breeds,” he said.

“Pigweeds have very low morals,” said Smith, picking up on Kendig’s line. “That phenomenon gives us diversity that can lead to problems with resistance.”

The efforts to control waterhemp, a problem pigweed species in the Midwest, and Palmer amaranth, one of the more troublesome pigweed species in the Mid-South, have some interesting parallels, according to Kendig.

Waterhemp was one of the first pigweed species to develop resistance to ALS inhibitors such as Pursuit herbicide, which was used on about 85 percent of the soybean acres in the Midwest. You could replace waterhemp with Palmer amaranth and Pursuit with Staple or Scepter and soybeans with cotton and have basically the same situation, he says.

“Palmer amaranth and resistance to herbicides like Staple helped drive Roundup Ready cotton in the Mid-South,” says Kendig. “Ten years ago, morning-glory was one of our weed control problems. Since then we have changed to a weed control program that is generally said to be stronger on pigweeds and weaker on morning-glory. So why are we now complaining of pigweed problems with Roundup?”

Some of the reasons for increased control problems with pigweed: (1) significant reductions in residual herbicides, including Treflan or trifluralin preplant incorporated; (2) significant reductions in tillage; (3) reductions in competition from other weeds and pigweeds; and (4) weather.

Palmer amaranth can be a particularly bad weed in Roundup Ready cotton because it grows rapidly — up to 12 inches a week. “If it’s in the drill, you can lose your height differential very quickly,” Kendig notes. “A pigweed plant produces millions of seed. Ninety-nine percent control of pigweed may come up a little bit short.”

Kendig — along with other Mid-South weed scientists like Smith and University of Tennessee Extension specialist Larry Steckel — has been conducting studies on the use of resistance prevention strategies, including the addition of residual herbicides to the Roundup Ready program.

“I don’t think I have an ironclad pigweed recommendation from these studies, but when you want to start talking about resistance prevention, suddenly it’s a lot more important to bring these alternative chemistries into your weed control program,” he notes.

Roundup Ready Flex cotton, which Monsanto expects to introduce in 2006, could mean an increase in glyphosate use because growers can apply it over the top of cotton much later in the season than with conventional Roundup Ready. That could also translate into some decreases in layby herbicides.

The new technology literally cries out for the use of more residual chemistry, and Monsanto has been talking about using those herbicides either pre-emergence or at layby.

Adding a residual herbicide may not be the total answer, either. “If you use a non-post residual tank mix partner with Roundup and the weed comes up, then the glyphosate application has to kill it,” he says. “So there’s no reduction in selection pressure.”

Whether it’s resistant or not, controlling Palmer amaranth requires a “systems” approach, says Kendig. That might include applying Prowl and/or Cotoran pre-emergence; Sequence (a tank mixture of Touchdown and Dual) postemergence; Roundup early post-directed and Valor plus Roundup at layby.

“Don’t ask me to run the costs on that because I know it might be expensive,” he said. “But treatments like this generally look good, even if you swap out one herbicide for another.”

The weed scientist said he believes Cotoran still has a place in cotton weed control although it has almost gone the way of the buggy whip in the shift to Roundup Ready. “I like to see a half rate of Cotoran go out pre-emergence,” he says. “It might eliminate the one-leaf Roundup spray. I can’t say it will eliminate resistance.”

Kendig has also been looking at some “unusual” residual herbicides but the future of the labeling is uncertain.

Regarding layby treatments, Kendig says his research shows that when you spray might be just as important as what you spray. “In locations where we had to spray late due to weather, one herbicide looked about as bad as another. I hope growers will keep their post-directed and hooded spray equipment,” he said, “because they may need it again.”

“Our job is to try to stay one step ahead of the problem,” said the University of Arkansas’ Ken Smith. “This is the kind of research we need to help us figure out what will work when we do encounter resistance.”

Farr says small increases in herbicide expense to combat resistance may not be a problem for many growers. “It may cost another $1 or $2 on the front end, but look at what can happen down the road if we don’t address this problem.”


North Carolina choose-and-cut Christmas tree farmers ready for business

As the Christmas holiday swiftly approaches, families will begin their hunt for festive ways to deck the halls. Spruce up your homes this year with a North Carolina choose-and-cut Christmas tree.

“Selecting a fresh Christmas tree is a tradition shared by many families across the state that gives holiday decorating a personal touch,” Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler said. “Of course, choosing a fresh, North Carolina Christmas tree also supports the state’s farmers and your local economy.”

With more than 300 choose-and-cut Christmas tree farms across the state, finding a farm near your home for your tree-hunting adventure will be easy. Locations can be found via the North Carolina Choose-and-Cut directory online at A free copy of the directory can also be obtained by contacting either the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Northeast Marketing Center at (252) 331-4773 or Western North Carolina Farmers Market at (828) 253-1691.

To celebrate North Carolina’s Christmas tree industry, Gov. Mike Easley proclaimed the week of Nov. 28 through Dec. 5 as “Choose-and-Cut Christmas Tree Week.”

North Carolina ranks second nationally in Christmas tree production and first in Fraser fir production. Statewide, there are more than 1,500 Christmas tree growers selling more than 4.5 million trees per year, valued at more than $100 million dollars.

Choose-and-cut farms account for more than 200,000 of the total trees sold annually in the state. “These tree farms aid in creating a holiday tradition that plants new memories each year,” said Bill Glenn, NCDA&CS marketing specialist.

“Even the White House recognizes the beauty and quality of North Carolina Christmas trees. This year an 18-foot-tall North Carolina Fraser fir was selected to decorate the Blue Room.”