Does weed resistance spell the end for wheat in the UK?

Posted in: Farming Matters blog

Blackgrass

We’ll have to stop growing winter wheat was the answer I gave to a question last week.  What was the question?  It came from a top weed scientist; he asked me ‘Have you thought about what you’ll do in the UK if resistance builds up to flufenacet?’

Some context perhaps.  I’m responsible for marketing Bayer’s cereal herbicides in the UK, and as such was invited to give a talk at the first Integrated Weed Management training session run by Bayer.  This was a gathering of technical and marketing colleagues from around the world who look after our herbicides, and they are looking to the UK for advice on how to prevent the build-up of resistance.

At the end of my talk this question came in and to be honest I didn’t hesitate with my answer – what else can we do in the UK?  This leads me to another question for the whole industry; other manufacturers, distributors, agronomists, regulators and growers: Are we genuinely doing everything that we can to prevent this doomsday scenario?

There have already been too many chemical casualties in the fight against black-grass for us all to sit back and watch it happen again; for it surely will if we don’t take steps to prevent it.  Please believe me that flufenacet is not immune to resistance, the same rules apply as before, if we become over-reliant on this single active at the expense of the others and of non-chemical control methods then over-time efficacy will reduce.

What should we do?  The theory is simple – do not exert only one type of selection pressure on the weed population, keep it on the back foot with cultural controls as well as all available chemical ones used correctly.  Widen our rotations to allow for different control methods in different crops and most importantly of all keep resistance management at the front of our minds when making cropping and chemical plans.

The practice is somewhat harder but it’s a fight that we have to win if we want to ensure the future of agriculture as we know it in the UK.

We all have a part to play – are you taking yours seriously? 

This blog was written by a former herbicides marketing manager