Herbicide Resistant Weed Concerns Shown in Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll

Survey shows farmers concerned about the spread, management of weeds

February 8, 2018, 11:13 am | J. Gordon Arbuckle Jr., Grant Wall

AMES, Iowa – Concerns about herbicide resistance are growing in Iowa as weeds such as water hemp are showing resistance to multiple herbicide groups. The 2017 Iowa Farm and Rural Life Poll (SOC 3085) surveyed Iowa farmers to ask them if they have herbicide resistant weeds in their fields, to learn about perspectives on the manageability of major weeds, and to measure their level of concern about herbicide resistance.

Farm and Rural Life PollSeveral questions asked about weed management had previously been asked in 2013, allowing for comparisons between years.

The poll found 22 percent of respondents believed they had weeds that were resistant to PPO inhibitor herbicides in their fields, up substantially from 3 percent in 2013. Twelve percent believed they had weeds that were resistant to HPPD inhibitor herbicides, compared to 4 percent in 2013.

Farmers were also asked if they had changed their weed management program due to concern about herbicide resistant weeds. A larger number of respondents had, with 77 percent acknowledging a change, up from 52 percent in 2013. Many farmers sought assistance with weed control, as the percentage of farmers who develop their own herbicide programs dropped from 45 percent in 2013 to 36 percent in 2017.

“Farmers are changing their weed management approaches due to worries about herbicide resistance,” said J. Arbuckle, assistant professor and extension sociologist at Iowa State University and director of the Farm Poll survey. “And one of the strategies seems to be more reliance on others for herbicide program development.”

The poll also asked questions about the manageability of major weeds. A majority (more than 50 percent) of farmers indicated waterhemp (80 percent), marestail/horseweed (52 percent) and giant ragweed (51 percent) had become more difficult to control or had become resistant to herbicides. Lambsquarters was listed by 46 percent of respondents as easy to control while 45 percent said it has become more difficult to control. Common ragweed was the only weed listed by a majority of farmers (55 percent) as easy to control.

The poll also found that 54 percent of farmers were not familiar with Palmer amaranth. Seven percent claimed it was easily controlled while 23 percent said it had become more difficult to control and 16 percent listed it as herbicide resistant.

“Palmer amaranth is a highly invasive weed that has evolved herbicide resistance in other states, so it’s important that farmers be able to identify and eradicate it,” Arbuckle said. “The finding that most respondents were not familiar with the weed means that more intensive awareness-raising efforts are needed.”

Several survey questions measured farmer concern about herbicide resistant weeds. Nearly 80 percent agreed that they were concerned about the spread of herbicide resistant weeds from other regions of the United States and, locally, other counties. Additionally, 77 percent agreed they were concerned about spread of weeds from neighboring farms.

“Most Iowa farmers are concerned about the potential spread of herbicide resistant weeds, and many are changing their strategies due to that concern,” said Arbuckle. “The survey results show that more outreach is needed, particularly on identification and management of Palmer amaranth.

“Recent research shows that non-herbicide weed management approaches, such as extended rotations and cover crops can also be effective weed suppression techniques.”

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.

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