The war on weeds continues (Editorial)

(Oct. 14, 2014) As the patent for Roundup expires, weed resistance to herbicides draws increased attention.
Roundup Ready had been the reliable weapon in the war against the weeds for many years — perhaps too many as it turned out.
A seed company, on a research farm near Queenstown, Md., developed a soybean that shook off the poison and grew unimpeded by many of the weeds that attacked it. It was thus Roundup Ready.
The herbicide quickly gathered a reputation for its success and became a “must” in the farm anti-weed arsenal.
It was reported at one time that 85 percent of the nation’s soybeans were Roundup Ready.
While this was going on, of course, over the years, the weeds caught on and began to develop resistance.
First one weed, then another, then another — not only to Roundup, but to other herbicides, of other chemistries, as well.
There was no doubt, that the farmers were losing the war on the weeds.
But the ag industry has mounted a counter-offensive. On Sept. 10, the Weed Science Society of America convened a “summit” in the auditorium of the National Academy of Sciences on herbicide-resistant weeds.
It explored, with experts in the field, such topics as the economics of resistance management, the global perspective on herbicide resistance and diversifying weed management tactics.
Elsewhere in the industry, new varieties emerge. The USDA is accepting public comments on the draft Environmental Impact Statement on Monsanto’s dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton.
Soybeans are a major field crop grown in this country. In Maryland alone, 480,000 acres are planted annually.
Because of numerous environmental regulations imposed in Maryland, farmers rely on the currently approved genetically modified crops to assist them with implementing many needed best management practices to achieve Maryland agriculture’s water quality goals.
With that said, Maryland Farm Bureau said there a couple of things USDA needs to keep keep in mind when making the final decision on new chemistries:
First, farmers should have the choice to use safe and valuable new agricultural technologies to increase yields and keep their farms profitable.
And, farmers need multiple-mode-of-action weed management tools.
Dicamba tolerance would be a valuable addition to the existing soybean and cotton weed control options to help fight against the development of weed resistance, the MFB said.
In that vein, the USDA has deregulated Dow’s 2,4-D-resistant Enlist Duo soybeans.
The American Soybean Association hailed the move, calling on the Environmental Protection Agency to quickly finalize the label for the new low-volatility Enlist Duo herbicide that can be utilized with the Enlist Duo soybeans to control resistant and difficult to manage weeds.
“America’s soybean farmers welcome (the) decision by USDA to deregulate Enlist Duo,” said ASA President and Iowa farmer Ray Gaesser. “As the problem of weed resistance spreads across the soybean growing regions of the U.S., this solution presents another integral mode of action with which farmers can fight yield-robbing weeds.”
To no one’s surprise, the ag industry’s search — in the wake of the expiration of the Roundup patent — to find another weapon in the war of weeds, is drawing fire from the environmental and anti-GMO segments of the population.
For example, the new weed killer Enlist got a quick slam from André Leu, president of International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM), the world umbrella body for the organic sector.
The organization claims Enlist contains 2,4-D, a component of Agent Orange.
“It will allow farmers to plant genetically altered corn and soybeans that can withstand being sprayed with the chemicals while killing super-weeds that are now resistant to Roundup,” the IFOAM said.
Which is the point, of course.
Let’s hope that, through all of this, the Roundup lesson is not overlooked, nor forgotten.
It is that, what is true in the human kingdom is also true in the plant world.
The overuse of anything dulls its effectiveness, be it an imunization vaccine, an antibiotic or a weed killing chemical.
Parents of many of us offered this caution: Everything in moderation.
It still goes.