Dealing with Herbicide-Resistant Weeds Addressed in Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll

Poll examines technological, incentive-based and cooperative approaches to managing herbicide resistance

March 16, 2018, 9:25 am | Grant Wall

AMES, Iowa – The Iowa Pest Resistance Management Program was released in 2017, outlining a number of activities that will be pursued to help Iowa’s farmers and other agricultural stakeholders increase their awareness of and capacity to address pesticide resistance.

Farm and Rural Life Poll
The 2017 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll surveyed farmers to learn about their perspectives on the potential effectiveness of several hypothetical approaches to addressing herbicide-resistant weeds. The poll presented nine different resistance management approaches and asked farmers to rate their likelihood of success on a 5-point scale from very unlikely to very likely.

The two highest rated options were “quick fix” approaches using new technology. “Private company discovery and development of new herbicides” and “private company discovery and development of new herbicide-tolerant crops” received 69 and 68 percent likely or very likely responses, respectively. “Land grant university discovery and development of new weed management strategies” was close behind with 62 percent likely or very likely responses.

“Farmers would love to have new products and technology that they could easily add to their weed management strategies,” said J. Arbuckle, associate professor and extension sociologist at Iowa State University. “Unfortunately, there don’t seem to be major new herbicide products in the pipeline.”

A second set of items focused on financial incentives and mandates as potential approaches to address herbicide resistance. Farmers rated these as the least likely way to reduce the spread of herbicide resistant weeds. Only about a third (36 percent) of respondents thought financial incentives provided by private companies would be likely or very likely to work, while 34 percent said they were unlikely to work (31 percent selected “neither likely nor unlikely”). Similarly, just 35 percent rated financial incentives through the government as likely to be effective, and 35 percent rated them as unlikely to work. Government-mandated weed best management practices requirements were seen as unlikely to work by nearly half (46 percent) of farmers, while only 20 percent thought they would be effective.

“That most farmers didn’t think financial incentives to support weed best management practice adoption would be effective was surprising, because cost-share is a familiar way to help farmers with soil and water conservation practices,” said Arbuckle.

A series of cooperative approaches were also presented, proposing partnership scenarios among farmers and between farmers and key agricultural stakeholders to manage herbicide resistance. The cooperative scenario that farmers thought would have the best chance of success was the broadest coalition: “local farmers, agricultural input supplier representatives, Iowa State University research and extension staff, state agency staff, and commodity group staff working together to improve adoption of weed Best Management Practices.” This approach was thought to be likely or very likely to succeed by 64 percent of respondents. Local farmers and agricultural input supplier representatives working together was seen by 61 percent as likely or very likely to succeed. Local farmers working together earned just 39 percent likely or very likely, while 31 percent thought it was unlikely or very unlikely.

“The finding that two-thirds of farmers rated the most complex cooperative resistance management scenario as likely to succeed is important,” Arbuckle said. “Cooperation between farmers and other agricultural stakeholders is a cornerstone of the Iowa Pest Resistance Management Program, and these results suggest that most farmers think such approaches are potentially effective.”

The Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll has been in existence since 1982, surveying Iowa farmers on issues of importance to agricultural stakeholders. It is the longest-running survey of its kind in the nation.

Contact: J. Gordon Arbuckle, Associate Professor and Extension Sociologist, Iowa State University, 515-294-1497,

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