A home owner in our part of town always had the most weed-infested lawn, but last summer he cut it all close to the ground and posted a “Prairie in Progress” sign. I love prairies, but a year later his lawn still looks like a weed festival. Maybe it just takes time. As Mark Parker indicates in his list of Top 10 Excuses for Weedy Fields, “My field is an experiment to see if weed shade reduces crop heat stress.” Parker also includes a line stating “They’re not weeds, they’re pollinator plants.”
In some instances, the difference between a weed and a beneficial plant is in the eye of the beholder. Most lawn owners treat dandelions like whack-a-moles, but a few folks use them for salad greens or an ingredient for wine making.
Crop Protection Science
In the long run, weeds live up to their destructive nature, and agriculturalists know that the world would go hungry if producers had no means to protect their crops. CAST Issue Paper #58 provides a science-based look at the current plant protection revolution that is driven by the biological realities of pesticide resistance, various market forces, and real or perceived side effects of pesticides.
This video series looks at innovations that are changing the face of the crop protection industry–fighting crop pests while considering human health and the environment.
Controversy Growing in the Fields
This corporate head says the world is likely to face food shortages if pesticides and genetically modified crops are shunned. Mark Lynas–activist turned biotech proponent–says science shows that GMO crops are perfectly safe. Not all agree. Consumers appear to be influenced by food labels that indicate biotech origin, and in California, the first of many court cases is underway as plaintiffs claim glyphosate caused their cancer.
A related debate is occurring as Hawaii became the first state to ban the pesticide chlorpyrifos. During the previous administration, the EPA proposed banning the chemical, but the current EPA says it will not put an outright ban on chlorpyrifos “without first attempting to come to a clearer scientific resolution on the matter.”
Whatever the future of crop protection brings, most would not want to return to the methods we used during the “field walking days.” This blog from several years ago looks at the glyphosate situation, but it also recounts what it was like to hand weed soybean fields on hot summer days. “We’d often start early to beat the heat; dew-drenched, with mud sticking to our sneakers, we’d trudge along, pulling most weeds, chopping some, and basically wrestling with the ones that seemed more like Seymour from Little Shop of Horrors.” We kids could have used Matt Parker’s list of excuses, but Dad wouldn’t have been much interested if we had claimed that organic matter contributes to the soil, and wildlife needs its natural habitat.
by dan gogerty (top pic from pinterest.com, middle pic from cornandsoybeandigest.com, and bottom pic from ottofarms.com)
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