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Resistant Pigweed Remains Hot Topic

No matter where I’ve traveled this summer, the topic of resistant Palmer pigweed dominates the conversation at field days like nothing I’ve seen in recent years. Whether it was at Milan (Tenn.), Stoneville (Miss.) or any other location in the region, the questions from farmers keep coming fast and furious. This issue has everyone’s attention.

Not since the days of boll weevils and tobacco budworms have we seen a problem spread so rapidly in the Mid-South and Southeast parts of the Cotton Belt.

It is astounding to see how this weed can reproduce, spread itself over a field and turn into an unmanageable nightmare. It seems as if every farmer has had a different experience on how to combat this problem. And the frustrating part of the situation is that there is no clear strategy that will work every time. We all know that starting the season with a good burndown is crucial. And being proactive in attacking even the smallest outbreak is essential if the weed is to be contained.

That can mean physically removing the weed and immediately carrying it out of the field, but even that kind of approach doesn’t always work. We also know that rotating chemistries, using different tankmix combinations and implementing good management practices are important.

Numerous reports have been published about the value of a Liberty Link/Ignite system as well as a PhytoGen/WideStrike combination. And other innovative strategies involve planting rye grass in the fall. The early results are encouraging on any of these approaches. But, as Mississippi Extension cotton specialist Darrin Dodds pointed out a few weeks ago at a cotton field day in Stoneville, Miss., it’s all about timing. A residual herbicide will be just as important in a Liberty Link system as it is in a Roundup Ready system. If the same mistakes are made with Liberty Link, you’ll still have the pigweed outbreaks.

It’s not as if Mid-South and Southeast producers weren’t warned about this weed problem a long time ago. I always like to remember how University of Georgia Extension weed scientist Dr. Stanley Culpepper sounded the alarm about this resistant weed more than four years ago when the first outbreaks were discovered in his state. Back then, he warned that this problem could spread more quickly than anything we had seen in previous years.

I can also remember attending a field day at Union City, Tenn., two years ago and hearing Culpepper passionately preaching his message about being prepared for this weed’s ultimate arrival in the Mid-South. A lot of farmers listened to his plea, but others probably didn’t respond as quickly. When the resistant pigweed hasn’t arrived on a farm, it isn’t a problem yet in the minds of many producers.

Until a new product comes along that can deal with resistant pigweed, our farmers must be as innovative and proactive as they’ve ever been in fighting this problem.

There simply isn’t any other alternative