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Iowa unveils wide-ranging effort to slow pest resistance

Iowa unveils wide-ranging effort to slow pest resistance

Resistance management has become a buzzword in recent years as farmers encounter weeds and insects that are more difficult to control.

Now, a broad coalition of Iowa farm groups, researchers and ag companies are coming together to launch a coordinated effort to battle pest resistance and preserve important crop protection tools with the creation of the Iowa Pest Resistance Management Plan.

"Pests do not recognize field borders, so it is important we work collaboratively on this issue," said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey. "We’ve talked about (resistance management) and encouraged folks to consider it on their own. I think some farmers have engaged in that, and others not as much. This plan is about understanding the issue and working together on it. Hopefully, this brings more people together to consider and implement those strategies."

The Iowa-specific plan is the result of more than two years of discussions with many public and private partners, said Iowa State University College of Agriculture and Life Sciences Associate Dean Dr. John Lawrence.

The plan promotes holistic and integrated management solutions that will effectively and sustainably control pests — including insects, weeds and plant diseases — while also keeping tools such as pesticides, seed treatments, biotechnology products and native traits available and effective.

"One of the challenges is just the very nature of this … It’s not something you can buy in a bag or spray over the top and fix the problem," said Lawrence. "It’s thoughtful decisions that impact not only my farm today, but the long-term viability of these technologies for me to farm in the future. That’s not just something you can just make a snap decision or pick it off of a list and be done. It’s going to be the thinkers that come out ahead in this process."

Having a coordinated plan will help farmers as they deal with weeds like waterhemp and Palmer amaranth that have developed resistance to multiple herbicides, said Harrison County farmer Larry Buss. Buss, who started farming in 1972, said he has seen a number of pest-control products come and go as their effectiveness fades over time.

"We have a history of dealing with pest resistance, but the thing we haven’t had is a plan to make the whole ag community get into the mind-set where we need to deal with these things," he said.

While the plan establishes long-term goals, it also carries short-term consequences, Buss said.

"We’re interested in long-term profitability, but we also have to ensure whatever practices farmers implement also makes them profitable in the short term — because you won’t get to the long term if you’re not profitable in the short term," he said.

The plan includes chapters that address governance, the state of the science, pilot projects and communication and outreach.

The pilot projects will focus on using the latest pest resistance management tools and examining approaches to encourage voluntary adoption of adaptive management approaches.

It is expected that the first round of pilot projects will be selected this April and get underway in May so they can be operating during this year’s growing season, Lawrence said. Some potential projects include studies on western corn rootworm, soybean aphid, waterhemp and Palmer amaranth, he said.

The full plan and additional information about pest resistance management efforts can be found at www.ProtectIowaCrops.org.



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