On May 12, the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) announced it has issued a strong appeal to the USDANational Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) to protest the elimination of virtually all funding for weed science in the federal budget.
“If the budget moves forward as proposed, critical work that impacts our food and water supplies and our natural ecosystems will remain unfunded,” says WSSA President John Jachetta.
Joining WSSA in an appeal to USDA to restore the funding were the Aquatic Plant Management Society, North Central Weed Science Society, Northeastern Weed Science Society, Southern Weed Science Society and Western Society of Weed Science.
In a letter to Roger Beachy, director, USDA NIFA, the organizations point to some of the most urgent, near-term challenges weed science needs to address:
- Herbicide resistance. Resistant weeds continue to evolve and will overrun long-established cropping systems unless new integrated weed management programs are developed and adopted. Integrated weed management considers all available practices – cultural, chemical, mechanical, genetic and biological – and uses the best combination for the specific problem.
- Organic weed control. Weed control is the organic grower’s number one production cost. To meet the demand for organically produced food, farmers need new and effective tactics for managing weeds without herbicides. An over-reliance on cultivation alone can increase soil erosion, reduce soil quality and increase energy consumption.
- Climate change. As weed species respond to our changing climate, new management tactics are needed to protect food supplies and to sustain both fiber and fuel production.
- Protection of water supplies. Unchecked invasive weeds continue to threaten the wetlands and waterways that are vital to our potable water supply, hydroelectric power, flood control, conservation and endangered species restoration.
The letter from the societies also highlights recent reports from the National Academy of Sciences and the USDA itself that underline the critical need for weed science research.
“Weed scientists are mystified and disappointed by USDA’s decision,” Jachetta says. “If officials consider weed management a solved problem, nothing could be further from the truth. Today, well over half of all pest-related crop losses can be attributed to weeds. Abandoning our commitment to weed science at a time when our weed management challenges are growing is a potent recipe for a crisis of national proportions.”
WSSA appealed to USDA to make three changes:
- Add a foundational program within the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI) to address weedy plant biology, ecology and management, similar to those focused on phytopathology and entomology.
- Reconfigure larger AFRI research programs to encompass the full breadth of the agricultural sciences. Currently, program objectives are written so narrowly as to exclude not only weed science, but many other important areas of study.
- Restore fundingfor integrated activities under the Section 406 Legislative Authority. Section 406 supports integrated weed management research through initiatives like the Regional IPM Centers, Risk Avoidance and Mitigation Program, Crops at Risk and Organic Transitions Program. Funding for these programs was zeroed out in the President’s FY 2011 budget.
“We hope that reason will prevail and that funding will be restored,” Jachetta says. “Otherwise the weed science discipline may be crippled for generations to come.”
WSSA asks that letters of support for weed science funding be directed to:
- The U.S. House of Representatives: https://writerep.house.gov
- The U.S. Senate: www.senate.gov/general/contact_information/senators_cfm.cfm
- USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture: RFP-OEP@nifa.usda.gov, an email address set up for stakeholder comments