Escaped Pigweed Could Be the Lottery Winner

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Brad Robb | Jul 31, 2018 | Southeast Farm Press

The 30th annual Milan No-Till Field Day was the perfect place for Charlie Cahoon to talk about herbicide resistance — despite his being over 600 miles from home. Cahoon knows that widespread adoption of no-till was facilitated in large part by the introduction of herbicides coupled with herbicide-resistant traits like Roundup Ready.

They also proliferated the conservation of soil and water. “If we want to preserve no-till, we must do everything we can to get a handle on herbicide resistance,” says Cahoon, assistant professor and Extension weed specialist: corn and cotton, North Carolina State University. “If we can’t control weeds with herbicides or other tactics, we’ll have to revert back to tillage to control weeds and we will lose the benefits of no-till.”

Cahoon used the odds of winning the lottery (1 in 292 million) to illustrate the initial frequency of a herbicide-resistant weed within a population.

“You may think, like your odds of winning the lottery, your odds of having that herbicide-resistant weed are low; however, one surviving female pigweed per-acre producing 450,000 seeds per-plant with a 5 percent germination rate the following year across a 1,000-acre farm, can mean you would have to deal with 22.5 million plants,” says Cahoon. “My father-in-law says I’ll never win the lottery because I’m too cheap to buy a $2 lottery ticket, but if this scenario comes to fruition on your farm, you essentially just bought $22.5 million in lottery tickets. Your odds at hitting the herbicide-resistant lottery are better than you think.”

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Escaped pigweed could be the lottery winner