Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Navigating The Past, Present And Future

carroll smith
Carroll Smith,

Why should you study history? According to the Department of History, University of Wisconsin-Madison, “Because history gives us the tools to analyze and explain problems in the past, it positions us to see patterns that might otherwise be invisible in the present — thus providing a crucial perspective for understanding (and solving!) current and future problems.”

Let’s consider this concept in the context of cotton insect and weed pests.

Past: Ron Smith, Auburn University entomologist and professor emeritus, said, “The past 50 years of cotton production and insect management have evolved in many, and in some instances, unexpected ways.” In the cover story on page 8, he shares his personal observations of the cotton insect world and some of the products and traits developed and used to control the pests.

Join Smith on his journey from the boll weevil, which nearly bullied cotton out of our agricultural landscape, to the sucking pests and the bug complex of today. See what the Alabama entomologist predicts for the future of cotton insect control.

Present: In the cotton weed pest arena, Palmer amaranth — aka pigweed, carelessweed, king of weeds, etc. — is still the bane of the cotton farmer most everywhere in the Cotton Belt. When left to grow undeterred, this competitive, annual broadleaf weed can reach heights close to 10 feet or more. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, one plant can produce as many as 250,000 seeds to carry on its legacy. To add insult to injury, USDA reports that Palmer amaranth populations “have developed resistance to multiple classes of herbicide with different modes of action, including glyphosate, making it very difficult and expensive to control, especially on productive farmland.” 

Future: Because resistance is now part of the equation, Adam Hixson, BASF technical service representative, said, “Taking those last few weeds out is very important to long-lasting, complete weed control.” On page 13, he discusses Operation Weed Eradication, which promotes a zero-tolerance approach to controlling cotton weeds. Although weed eradication may come across as a lofty goal, so did boll weevil eradication back in the day, and we see now how that turned out. 

“An eradication mindset means going the extra mile to take out the last weed standing before it produces seed,” Hixson said.

The take-home message to keep moving forward successfully — not only in the world of cotton but also the world of agriculture — is learn from the past, live in the present and anticipate the future with a positive, open mind.

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