Everything in Agriculture is a Trade-Off

The idea of trade-offs is familiar to everyone. None of us have unlimited money, time, or energy. We make decisions every single day about how to spend our money, our time, and our energy. Do I buy the red shirt or the blue shirt? Do I watch the football game or go to the concert? Should I ride my bike to work or hope I can find a good parking place? Do I call a plumber or try and fix the sink myself? Do …

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Herbicide Diversity Trends in US Crops, 1990-2014

There are two things that I think just about every weed scientist can agree on: herbicide resistant weeds make weed management more difficult; and the key to battling herbicide resistant weeds (or any weeds, really) is to use a diverse weed management program. One aspect of a diverse weed management program is herbicide diversity. The quickest way to select for herbicide resistant weeds is to use the same herbicide over and over again. I’ve expressed heavy skepticism in the past …

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How to Make a Natural Weed Killer

Well over a year ago, I wrote about a homemade herbicide containing salt, vinegar, and dish soap. “Many of you have probably seen it posted to Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest, or on your favorite home gardening site. One of my favorite descriptions calls it a “magical, natural, weed killing potion.” That particular potion certainly kills weeds, but it isn’t natural (and it certainly isn’t chemical-free). It contains dish soap and vinegar, both of which are synthesized industrially, so it isn’t natural by most definitions of the word. That’s disappointing, …

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The role of reflected light quality in crop-weed interactions

This post is a slightly edited excerpt from an article we wrote for Reflections magazine. Plants need light – this is one of the first biology lessons children learn in school. Plants convert sunlight into forms of energy the plant can use to grow. Nearly everything humans eat is derived in some way from photosynthesis, whether the tomato picked from a garden or a ribeye steak that once grazed on grass. Sunlight seems like a plentiful enough resource, but there’s …

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Enlist Duo registration being withdrawn by EPA due to “synergistic effects”

Chris Clayton at DTN is reporting this morning that EPA is withdrawing registration of Enlist Duo herbicide. The decision was posted yesterday in court documents. From the DTN report: “The filing was posted in a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals case filed by the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Center for Food Safety against Dow AgroSciences and EPA over the regulatory approval of Enlist Duo.” Withdrawal of the herbicide’s registration will effectively make it illegal to use this herbicide, …

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The cost of preventing herbicide resistance

In my last post, I reviewed some recent research that suggests one of the best ways to delay the evolution of herbicide resistant weeds is to use mixtures of effective herbicides. Resistance is initially a very rare trait within a weed species, so the probability that any particular individual plant will be resistant to two herbicides is extremely low. The second herbicide is likely to kill any weeds that are resistant to the first herbicide, and vice versa. The theory behind this practice …

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Want to reduce herbicide resistance? Spray more herbicides!

A while ago, I wrote a post summarizing the pros and cons of using a regulatory framework to slow the evolution of herbicide resistant weeds. As a part of that post, I suggested there exists a “resistance management paradox.” In a nutshell, to reduce the problem of herbicide resistant weeds, one important strategy may be to actually use more herbicide. From my previous post: “The only way to assuredly prevent herbicide resistance from evolving is never to apply the herbicide; but if we are going to …

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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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