RR Giant Ragweed and Me


Last week it was confirmed that I have glyphosate resistant Giant Ragweed growing on my farm.  I believe there will be many more occurrences of this throughout southwestern Ontario this year and next.  I believe but I’m not sure that my glyphosate resistant Giant Ragweed problem is the second such known problem in Ontario.  However, I knew about it five years ago but am only now getting official confirmation from the scientists at the University of Guelph.

It started innocently enough.  About five or six years ago I noticed when I was burning down my fields that some Giant Ragweed wood burn to the ground but inevitably come back through to spoil my conventional soybean fields during the summer.  If you do not know Giant Ragweed it can grow to a huge height of maybe 10 feet or more and is a tremendous competitor and yield robber to area soybean fields.  I asked many of my crop supply people at the time for their opinion about this but at the end of the day it was left to me to contact the University of Guelph to get confirmation.  After two years of testing I got the positive result.  It certainly isn’t good news for me or for southwestern Ontario agriculture.

It brings up an interesting specter as we look ahead into future agricultural production in Ontario.  I am not a big user of glyphosate herbicides.  Yes, I use them for burn downs but I have never grown Roundup ready soybeans.  It has only been the last few years where I have grown Roundup ready corn.  The resistance to glyphosate came many years ago and I’ve been fighting back with nonconventional means with products like dicamba in corn and First Rate in soybeans.  I am winning the war as my glyphosate resistant Giant Ragweed has been reduced over the period of five years.  Nevertheless, it is a war I don’t want to fight and it is probably an example of many other production related problems we are going to have in the future by relying on one particular herbicide.

You may remember past columns that I have written regarding agricultural biotechnology.  My feelings always were agricultural biotechnology would someday make it possible to grow palm trees in Ontario.  It was also my hope that agricultural biotechnology would be able to create crops which would benefit human health while at the same time reduce costs to producers.  However I’ve been a vocal critic of simply boosting agricultural biotechnology when at the end of the day it seems all it is doing is selling more herbicide.  My opinion has not changed with the resistance on my farm.  I look at it as just another problem I have to deal with.  The agricultural biotechnology industry will do what they do and at the end of the day farmers must decide how to judge them.

The question is what should you do if you suspect you have glyphosate resistance on your farm.  Should you fiddle around like I did for five years trying to find answers or in 2010 do you make a call to the Ridgetown campus of the University of Guelph to get some answers?  I would suggest that you give the researchers a call if you suspect glyphosate resistance.  Tell them Phil Shaw sent you.  Their research on the issue and their help with my situation was invaluable and we should all be thankful we have such good scientists ready to help us.

I first learned about glyphosate resistant Giant Ragweed when I was the guest speaker at the Southwestern Ontario Agricultural Conference several years ago.  I was doing a commodity outlook presentation and an Ohio State researcher was doing a presentation on glyphosate resistance.  We got talking because we were the only two people in the room with a Macintosh computer.  I soon learned that he was working in southern Ohio on glyphosate resistant Giant Ragweed.  He told me all about it.  While listening to him, I thought I had it.  The rest as they say is history.

If you ever have the opportunity to travel to southern Ohio during harvest time you will see the problem.  A few years ago I was down there looking for a combine and the fields were beautiful both corn and soybeans except for one thing.  The obvious Roundup Ready crops had huge patches of very aggressive weeds, which I quickly learned were Giant Ragweed.  They were glyphosate resistant.

I think it’s entirely obvious we don’t want that here.  As planters and sprayers move to the fields in the next few weeks, keep a watch.  Glyphosate resistance is probably not only on my farm but yours too.