Summit on the “wicked” problem of herbicide resistance now available online

Farm Forum

LAWRENCE, Kansas – On the heels of its September scientific summit on herbicide resistant weeds, the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) announced that slides and a webcast of the event are available for free online.

Participants from approximately 100 cities across the U.S., Australia, Canada and Germany attended the event in person or via webinar, including growers, scientists, public policy makers and others interested in the devastating impact of herbicide-resistant weeds on agricultural productivity. They heard speakers say herbicide resistance meets the classic definition of a “wicked” problem due to its complexity and the lack of a single, optimal solution. Effective responses to control these weed populations must be complex, varied, community based and holistic.

Harold Coble, Ph.D., a farmer and retired agronomist with the USDA Office of Pest Management Policy, pointed out that the alarm bells sounded in recent years have so far prompted little change; there continue to be annual increases in the acreage of herbicide-resistant weeds reported.

“The summit isn’t about assigning blame, but instead about understanding the socioeconomic dimensions of the problem and moving towards systems-based solutions,” he said. “Resistance will only be managed through the combined efforts of all parties involved: growers, industry, universities, retailers, consultants, commodity groups, government, landowners, lending institutions, professional societies, non-governmental organizations and the press,” he said. “Each of us has a role to play.”

A number of recommendations were offered by speakers during the day-long event. Examples include:

• Establishing area-wide resistance management programs for specific threats, such as the herbicide-resistant Palmer amaranth invading Iowa corn crops.

• Communicating the positive impact of resistance management on farm profitability.

• Developing resistance management certification programs.

• Implementing scouting programs for early identification of weeds that escape herbicide controls.

• Using financial incentives to promote adoption of herbicide resistance management plans and to encourage innovation in nonchemical weed management practices.

• Declaring certain weeds as noxious or invasive to certain geographical regions to increase the awareness and better prepare.

Slides and a webcast recording of the day-long summit are available online at