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weeds in soybean fields Kyle Stackhouse

Will 2020 be the end of non-GMO?

It very well may be for us as weed control gets more difficult.

We have been growing non-GMO crops for at least the last 10 years. Many years we have been near 100% non-GMO. That means no Roundup, Liberty, Extend or Enlist resistant crops. That takes a lot of tools out of the toolbox when dealing with those tougher weeds. The last few years it seems to be getting harder. Is it the fact that we’ve been non-GMO for such a long time or is it that weed pressure is just increasing every year? I don’t know, but it is driving us nuts! One field looks great, the next is a wreck.

Premiums have come and gone. In fact, this year they have been on an uptick. That’s the reason why we stayed non-GMO. In December/January we had discussed switching our beans over to all herbicide tolerant traits. But $1.50 a bushel lured us back. Now it looks like we’ll spend a good chunk of that to clean fields up.

Our worst fields are soybeans. There are more chemistry options to attack tough weeds in non-GMO corn. Honestly, I think a lot of the issues are environmental this year. We just didn’t have good conditions for residuals to activate or contact killers to burn off the weeds. I think tillage also played a role. Some fields I can tell you which direction the tractor was going when it went through the 2019 waterholes that were drown out. We drug the weed seed all the way across the field. We’ve got issues and few ways to deal with them.

Our biggest issue is water hemp. It’s not even glyphosate resistant. The weeds are too big for any broadcast spray application to have long-term effects. We are down to three options: 1) physical labor 2) buy a weed wiper spunge or 3) let it grow. The last option isn’t a very good one as there will be years of ramifications. There will also be a lot a yield-reducing competition for the soybeans. The first option won’t be cheap. But the second option is still in play. It isn’t cheap either, but I guess some guys have had success going this route. Sponges are mounted on the sprayer boom and highly concentrated herbicide is soaked into the sponge. Then it’s no different than household cleaning - just wipe the area you want to clean. The weeds do have to be bigger than the beans, and if you touch the sponge to the beans they will die as well. Dad has been investigating this option and we’ll have to make a decision soon.

The opinions of the author are not necessarily those of Farm Futures or Farm Progress. 
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