Here’s a summary list of the top agronomy topics of 2021.
1. Herbicides in Peril
Herbicides are the backbone of crop weed control. They’ve stumbled, though, in recent years due to herbicide-resistant weeds.
Weeds that resist herbicides are as old as herbicides.
Resistance isn’t new. For example, velvetleaf first resisted atrazine — commercialized in 1958 — in a Maryland cornfield in 1984.
But widely used herbicide-tolerant crops have had an unintended consequence: they have accelerated the development herbicide-resistant plants. Mike Holmberg was my predecessor and reported on glyphosate resistant marestails that University of Delaware weed scientists confirmed as true in 2000. This was just four years after Monsanto, now part of Bayer, introduced Roundup Ready soybeans.
Years later, waterhemp that resisted dicamba was confirmed this year in Illinois and Tennessee —four years after federal regulators approved dicamba formulations applied to dicamba-resistant soybeans.
These developments prompted a series of three parts in the October, November and December issues of Successful Farming, under the banner of Hard Times for Herbicides. This series addressed the issues with herbicides and highlighted a shift toward seedbank management. This strategy involves the use of tools such as:
- Chopping machinery that stops weeds going to seed.
- Flaming weeds can help nix seed development.
- To stop seeds from settling in the soil, you can electrocut weeds.
- First pioneered in Australia, Harvest Weed Seed Control techniques
- Cover crops are used as a barrier to prevent weeds from germinating.
- Narrow rows can be used to shade weeds and reduce seed production.
Herbicides are not dead. This series featured Enko, a company that uses new methods to develop herbicides for farmers.
Still, herbicides still need to be used. This is a strategy that all parties can agree on and will continue to develop, regardless of whether they are from industry, universities, or any other entity.
2. Carbon Markets
When it comes to crop production, the Midwest is dominated by soybeans and corn. There’s good reason for that. They’re the most profitable crops to grow, and they have the infrastructure that supports them.
These crops are still under attack by diseases and weeds. That’s why there’s always been a push toward that elusive “third crop” that would help slay these stressors and diversity income.
The answer may lie beneath the feet and hands of farmers.
Although growing carbon might not eliminate the alligators who eat soybeans and corn every year, it may help. Farmers can diversify their income by receiving payments for sequestering greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide. While some farmers don’t believe that greenhouse gases are responsible for climate change, others believe in the value of money.
This was the premise of Pay Dirt, a story published in the January 2021 issue. Subsequent stories included one in the May 2021 issue that evaluated carbon measurement and one in the June 2021 issue that discussed carbon market certification. Mid-November 2021 was a story that provided information about how farmers could determine the carbon markets for their farms.
This coverage also launched a Carbon Market Series in the August and Nov issues of Successful Farming, which covered soil health practices that could lead to carbon market payments. These include tools such as cover crops, and farms that include such tools in a whole-farm setting.
Carbon markets will not be going away and will continue to be covered by Successful Farming as well as agriculture.com.
In recent decades, farmers have used a variety of technologies, including modern machinery and chemicals.
Yet, all revolve around one input—seed—that has been around since biblical times. It is true that the seeds farmers planted in Jesus’ day are eons older than the varieties we now have. But, the same questions farmers today worry about regarding their seed are being asked of farmers in those days. Will it germinate. Will it germinate? How will it fare under too much or too little rain? Is it really worth the money?
This was the inspiration for the July 2021 issue Successful Farming. It featured stories from Bill Spiegel, Gil Gullickson, and Natalina Sentsbausch:
Seed selection will continue to be a focal part of Successful Farming coverage in 2022.
Source: Successful Farming