Dead plants are probably bad for earthworms

I’ve gotten a number of questions recently about a new study titled “Glyphosate-based herbicides reduce the activity and reproduction of earthworms and lead to increased soil nutrient concentrations” that was recently published in the online journal Scientific Reports. Although the title seems pretty straightforward, there are some flaws in the study design that preclude any broad conclusions from this research. I would especially be cautious of making statements like Roundup is “imperiling streams, lakes, [and] aquifers” or that there are “far-reaching consequences of [glyphosate] use in ecosystems” …

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I Am Biased and So Are You: thoughts on funding and influence in science

This is the third (and probably final) post in a series on industry funding of my weed science program. The previous posts on this topic are here (Part 1: On transparency, intimidation, and being called a shill) and here (Part 2: Who funds my weed science program?). In this post, I’ll mostly describe some of my personal experiences. It is important to note that my experiences are not necessarily representative of others. I suspect that my experiences might be similar to other scientists with similar roles, but …

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Who funds my weed science program?

This is the second post in a series about transparency and funding sources for my weed science research program. An introduction can be found here: On transparency, intimidation, and being called a shill. Since 2012, around two-thirds of my research funding has come from competitive grants. By competitive grants, I mean projects that I’ve developed and submitted to an agency for funding consideration. Many other people submit applications, too, and the funding agency selects the projects they feel are most …

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On transparency, intimidation, and being called a shill

A while back, a group of scientists involved in research or communication about various aspects of biotechnology (GMOs) were the subjects of freedom of information requests. Keith Kloor, who broke the story in Science, also posted one of the letters sent to the University of Illinois. The request asks for all emails in the last 2+ years between the scientists and a long list of companies. Gary Ruskin, an activist funded by the Organic Consumers Association, is making these requests while suggesting the …

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An Evaluation of the Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ)

I’ve always been interested in how changes in agricultural production practices impact the environment. In particular, I’ve followed the adoption of genetically modified (GM) crops since I was an undergraduate, and try to stay up to date on research relating to the environmental impact associated with these crops. Several publications over the last decade have relied on the environmental impact quotient (EIQ) to quantify the environmental impact of changes in pesticide use resulting from GM crops. The EIQ originated with a …

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A 40 year veteran of weed research reflects on his career

Bob Wilson, the weed specialist at the University of Nebraska’s Panhandle Research & Extension Center is retiring this month. Dr. Wilson has been a long-time mentor to me, serving as advisor for my M.S. and co-advisor for my PhD. Since then, we’ve collaborated on many projects aimed at helping sugarbeet producers better manage difficult weeds. UNL’s Crop Watch has a really nice writeup today about some of his career highlights. He discusses some of his thoughts about changes in weed …

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Seralini Rat Study Revisited

Anyone interested in the GMO debate has probably heard about the Seralini paper that I criticized a while back. That paper was eventually retracted by the original journal, and it has now been re-published in a different journal. There are quite a few articles describing the background, so I won’t get into those details. I suggest reading recent pieces at Retraction Watch or Grist if you want to get the background information. The Seralini press release for the re-published article states “The raw …

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Fitness of herbicide resistance genes revisited

Last August, an article was published in New Phytologist that claimed a transgene added to rice could increase the fitness of a weedy relative. The paper was covered in the media pretty widely. When I read the paper, I didn’t think the authors presented nearly enough data to support their conclusions. You can find my criticisms in detail here. I think it is worth revisiting this paper now for a couple of reasons. The first is that two formal criticisms …

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Are herbicides responsible for the decline in Monarch butterflies?

The monarch butterfly is in bad shape. The number of monarchs returning to their overwintering sites in Mexico has been declining steadily for at least a decade. The consensus suggests there are several reasons for this decline, including loss of their overwintering habitat and unfavorable weather patterns. But the purported cause of monarch decline that seems to get the most coverage is the loss of milkweed (Asclepias spp) in the midwestern US migratory path. The evidence seems clear that the number …

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Do cultural and mechanical weed control practices delay development of herbicide resistant weeds?

Researchers from Wyoming, Nebraska, and Montana will use kochia in a five-year study to help find a solution to weed-resistance to herbicides. Department of Plant Sciences associate professor Andrew Kniss has received a National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant to analyze methods of weed control other than herbicide. “Diverse crop rotations and tillage are commonly recommended for management of herbicide-resistant weeds, but there is still not that much field-based information on how successful these approaches will be,” explained Kniss. “Since …

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