Farmers Are Concerned about Pesticide Resistance

New Report from Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll

Farmer perspectives on pesticide resistanceAMES, Iowa -- Many Iowa farmers believe they have identified pesticide resistance on the land they farm, and most are concerned that herbicide-resistant weeds and pesticide-resistant insects will become a problem, according to a new report from the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll.

“Farmers understand that the way they use pest management technologies has a major impact on the rate of resistance development. However, they also view resistance management as a community problem involving multiple stakeholders in the agricultural sector,” said J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr., a sociologist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. Arbuckle co-directs the annual poll with Paul Lasley, also an ISU Extension and Outreach sociologist.

“Farmer Perspectives on Pesticide Resistance” (PM 3070) is available for free download from the ISU Extension and Outreach Online Store,, and the ISU Department of Sociology Extension and Outreach website,

The data represent 889 farmers from the 2014 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll who planted corn and/or soybean in 2013. Data from the 2013 and 2012 Farm Poll surveys also are reported.

A ‘Treadmill’ of Resistance Evolution

“The results of the poll indicate most Iowa farmers view pest management as a treadmill cycle of resistance evolution,” said Arbuckle. “They feel that when new management technologies are introduced, it’s only a matter of time before pests evolve resistance.”

The report concludes that this “treadmill” perspective is concerning, because it implies that many farmers feel somewhat powerless to cope with the evolution of resistance. However, the report points out that the rate at which pests evolve resistance can be slowed significantly through widespread, coordinated pest management practices and strategies.

Who Is Responsible for Resistance Management?

The Farm Poll asked farmers to rate the level of responsibility that various stakeholders have for contributing to resistance management efforts. “Farmers reported that they are most responsible for resistance management. This makes sense, because farm-level strategies such as crop rotation, rotation of different types of pesticides, and other practices as part of integrated pest management programs are the foundation of effective landscape-scale resistance management strategies,” Arbuckle said.

“However, farmers also believe that other key stakeholders, such as pesticide manufacturers, university scientists and commercial pesticide applicators, share in the responsibility. This suggests they believe that pesticide resistance management should be a community effort among stakeholders,” Arbuckle said.

The survey also found that most farmers do not develop their own herbicide programs, and most use custom applicators to apply their herbicides. “Most farmers look to their agricultural retailers and crop advisers for guidance on weed and insect management,” Arbuckle noted. “These stakeholders have a critical role in helping farmers to implement effective resistance management strategies.”

“Pesticide resistance is becoming more common in Iowa. Now would be a good time for farmers and other stakeholders to get together to work on coordinated, collaborative resistance management approaches,” Arbuckle said.

About the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll

Conducted every year since its establishment in 1982, the Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll is the longest-running survey of its kind in the nation. ISU Extension and Outreach, the Iowa Agriculture and Home Economics Experiment Station, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, and the Iowa Agricultural Statistics Service are all partners in the Farm Poll effort.