In our March cover story, we reported on the recent uptick in new tillage sales and reasons for the demand, those being excess crop residue and soil compaction left by consecutive seasons of wet weather. After reading the article, Thomas Eubank, extension professor with the Delta Research and Extension Center, Mississippi State University, offered another reason why farmers are buying more tillage equipment:weeds resistant to glyphosate, the primary herbicide used in Roundup Ready crops.
“Tillage implements are the hottest selling items at auctions and equipment dealers because we are looking for alternative means of control for these troublesome weeds,” Eubank writes to us in an email. “We have had numerous situations throughout the South where producers plowed under their planted crops because the weeds got ahead of them and there was no other option than to start over.”
Eubank says this issue seriously threatens conservation- and no-tillage systems throughout the country. “So serious is this threat that the NRCS has begun aggressively trying to identify ways to manage this weed without requiring additional tillage.”
Alternatives being explored include planting cover crops, applying enzymes, or using stalk choppers or crimpers. Another alternative being looked at is the development of new seed hybrids that can resist the stress of crop residue. (See "Methods for handling corn resudue without tillage.") New "reduced tillage implements" such as vertical tillage also are being designed, offering the soil conservation benefits of no-till but the weed-defying benefits of tillage.
Regardless of which method you choose, many weed scientists are saying that farmers will need to use multiple strategies—both chemical and mechanical—to manage the growing problem of weeds.
What are you doing this year to handle weed resistance?