The decision whether or not to follow good weed management practices in today’s highly competitive crop environment seems like a no-brainer, especially when you consider the amount of attention herbicide-resistant weeds have gotten nationwide the last few years in almost every type of agricultural setting. Nonetheless, growers every season face decisions about what to do, where to do it and how much to spend when it comes to weed control.
Simply put, weed control — no matter your level of
past success (or failure) — is an important issue that merits careful, annual consideration. There are costs and benefits associated with virtually every farming activity, but weed issues, in particular, can have an immediate impact on your bottom line if not addressed properly, which is why understanding the costs and benefits of your weed control efforts is important.
“Crop loss is the immediate and long-term effect from ignoring weed control, which obviously impacts a grower’s income,” says George Beck, a professor of weed science at Colorado State University.
Short-, Long-term thinking
Given this, Beck recommends growers pay close attention to what’s going on in their fields to address both short- and long-term weed management issues. He says a good place to start in the analysis process is to keep a journal with detailed notes on weed issues for every field. This observation-based information can then be used to not only help devise immediate weed management strategies, but also offer insights on other potential changes that might need to occur in your long-term weed control practices. Those tactics are part of assessing the overall economic costs and benefits of your efforts.
“Growers should focus on what their crop rotation should be by looking at what will be profitable based upon market conditions. They then need to anticipate what weeds will be problems in those crops and plan for the future,” says Beck, who believes many growers could do a better job of focusing on the present and future simultaneously.
“Crop rotation is one of the best ways to keep any single weed species from becoming dominant, but one must be aware in their rotation to focus on breaking weed and other pest cycles. This helps to minimize weed management inputs, and of course, the bottom line also improves when this occurs.”
But everything in farming — from applying chemicals to rotating crops — has an associated cost, so growers need to weigh many factors
in how to proceed with their weed management practices, because their bottom line depends on it.
Unfortunately, there’s no magic formula or simple equation to tackle weed control problems. The challenge is the wide variety of variables. This is why it’s important for growers to consider a range of factors as a part of any analysis process before making decisions, especially if they hope to get the most economic benefit from their weed control efforts.
Beck explains that no matter the
approach, the results will be reflected in your bottom line. Line up the
factors and consider your best action for each.
Beck offers a few to consider:
Crop growth life cycle. How do crops grow, and when are weeds most critical?
Weed growth cycle. When are weeds most vulnerable? In some cases, very early control makes a difference.
Weed seed deposits. The seeds left in that weed seed bank don’t pay dividends in the long term.
Tackling these commonsense approaches while looking at the pressures you faced in 2014 will help you construct
a profitable, and flexible, approach to weed control in 2015. FF
- Yontz writes from Urbandale, Iowa.
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