FARGO -- Ford Baldwin painted a bleak picture of weed control at a recent workshop in Fargo exploring the future of ag production.
"When we delivered the message in Arkansas, our farmers didn't listen," he said. "A lot of them tell me they wish they had."
Baldwin, of Practical Weed Consultants, a crop-consulting business in Arkansas, talked at the "Sow What Now?" workshop about how herbicide-resistant weeds like Palmer amaranth have taken over entire fields in just a few years.
"It got ugly in a hurry," he said. "You can choose to do what we did and go there, or you can choose to change your programs and do something different."
Roundup (a herbicide with the active ingredient glyphosate) changed everything about agriculture because it was 100 percent weed control, Baldwin said.
"It brought an efficiency we never dreamed of," he said.
It was also cheaper than the herbicides farmers had been using. But the ease and cost savings made farmers and retailers complacent, Baldwin said.
Herbicides are failing one at a time because there's not enough chemical diversity and farmers have been reactive instead of proactive, he said.
"We've got to break that habit," he said.
To win, he said farmers need to use strategies like tillage diversity, cover crops, wise crop rotation and zero weed tolerance.
"If you manage every field you've got like you've got a resistance problem, you probably won't get it," he said.
Liberty herbicide, which uses glufosinate, is working against some of the weeds that have shown glyphosate resistance, but Baldwin cautioned that using only that will lead to the same problems farmers now face.
"It's not what Roundup was back in the glory days," he said. "Our farmers struggle with that."
Carl Peterson of Peterson Farms Seed near Harwood, N.D., attended the event and said there are two kinds of farmers -- those who have weed resistance issues and those who soon will.
"We've seen those resistance issues develop from south to north, and we've had growers tell us a few years ago they didn't have a problem. Today they have a problem," he said. "This is an issue that has to be dealt with and it's going to define a large part of how we produce food in the next decade."
Peterson Farms Seed is the largest seller of LibertyLink soybeans in North Dakota and Minnesota and produced the first Liberty seed in the region, Peterson said.
"This is a technology farmers are going to need to manage weed resistance," he said.
They are also working with other technologies coming out because "there is no silver bullet," Peterson said. "There's no one technology that's ever going to give us the kind of easy, carefree weed control that we enjoyed with Roundup."
Corey Kratcha of c2sensors in Fargo and Shawn Muehler of Botlink also discussed emerging ag technologies at the workshop.
C2sensors manufactures biodegradable sensors that can measure salinity, moisture and temperature in soils, giving farmers more precise data in real time, Kratcha said.
"If you're looking at nitrogen in the soil and you know what's happening in the soil, you can be more specific about the end applications that you put on in the field," he said.
Botlink is a software and cellular device that provides fully automated autonomous drone control.
"The advantage is it's getting agronomists and farmers in the space to be able to reflect real-time data and to be able to form analytics in real time while they're out in the field," Muehler said. "It's a really precise image of crop health."
Angela Kazmierczak, a field biologist, and Greg LaPlante, a crop consultant, developed the idea and content for the "Sow What Now?" workshop. Emerging Prairie coordinated the event, which was sponsored by Bayer CropScience, the North Dakota Soybean Council and GL Consulting.