U.S. farmers, government officials need to alter current farming practices to protect food production, stop rampant spread of 'super weeds' affecting farmland, officials say

LOS ANGELES , May 11, 2012 () – U.S. farmers and government officials need to alter current farming practices in order to protect domestic food production and stop the rampant spread of “super weeds” affecting farmland, industry experts said, Reuters reported May 10.

Weed resistance now affects more than 12 million U.S. acres, and is primarily concentrated in the agricultural areas of the U.S. Midwest and Southeast.

On May 10, weed experts gathered in Washington D.C. as part of a national “summit” to discuss the problem.

U.S. farmers must become more versatile in their approach to managing weeds. Far too many farmers have relied solely to herbicides to control weeds, agromist and U.S. Department of Agriculture weed scientist Harold Coble said.

At a minimum, no new chemical modes of action for farmers fight weeds will be available for 20 years, Coble added.

For many years, farmers relied largely on Monsanto Co.'s Roundup herbicide to deal with weeds. Super weeds have now begun to develop a tolerance to glyphosate, Roundup’s main ingredient.

Weed experts’ recommendations to combat weeds include using “cover” crops, which are planted post-harvest to replenish soil nutrients and stymie weed development, and the use of limited tillage. Tillage encourages soil erosion. In addition, the industry is considering using equipment that is capable of collecting weeds and weed seeds, which can be removed and destroyed later on, along with grains; and multiple herbicide mechanisms designed to target specific weed densities.

Many industry players would like either the industry or the government to provide incentives intended to help farmers implement weed-control strategies.

Dow Chemical Co. is currently seeking regulatory approval for a new 2, 4-D herbicide and 2, 4-D-resistant crops. While critics say that approving the products would only exacerbate the problem, proponents say they would provide a short-term solution to deal with the growing super weed problem.

The primary source of this article is Reuters, London, England, on May 10, 2012.

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