From: University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences
Published October 4, 2017 04:07 PM

Are we at a tipping point with weed control?

Imagine walking the cereal aisle at your favorite grocery store. Are you reading labels? Scanning prices? Thinking about weeds? If you’re like most American consumers, weeds probably aren’t at the forefront of your mind when buying food. But if farmers could no longer control weeds with existing herbicides, Americans would take notice pretty quickly.

“I think the future of cheap food is strongly related to the availability and effectiveness of existing herbicides,” says Adam Davis, ecologist in the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois and USDA Agricultural Research Service. That is, without working herbicides, food could get a lot more expensive.

Davis and George Frisvold, an economist at the University of Arizona, recently teamed up to consider the possibility that we’ve reached a critical tipping point in our ability to control agricultural weeds with the herbicides currently on the market. They published their analysis in the journal Pest Management Science.

“I believe if we fully lost chemical control of certain weeds, and if farmers continued with the corn-soybean rotation, they’d be forced to reduce their acreages as they spend more time and money managing weeds. And the cost of the end product, our food, would go up as well,” Davis says.  

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