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The 2019 weather will be a benchmark for farm families for generations to come.

Grandpa measured everything by the challenges of the Depression. Dad measured dry weather against the drought of 1954. And today’s generation will use the 2012 drought yardstick and the 2019 wet weather yardstick to measure future years and impress future generations.

This year has generated special legislation, USDA bailouts and may even provide the theme of a Broadway play.

While those not involved with farming will move on, farmers will still have many issues to fight this year, and some of those battles have not yet had time to present themselves. While this may be remembered as the year of the cold, wet spring and delayed planting, it may also be remembered as the year of the weeds. And instead of a Broadway play, that has more appeal as the theme of a cheap B-grade horror movie.

At a time when fields are typically sprayed to control 3-4 inch tall weeds, sprayers were prevented from being used because field conditions would have mired them down. And plenty of pictures of stuck farm equipment have been shared on the Internet this spring showing efforts to farm too early.

And because weeds grew beyond control height before being sprayed, many of the hard to kill weeds like waterhemp, marestail, giant ragweed and Palmer amaranth have a free pass to grow and multiply. That is the last thing farmers need in a year like this. And no, a triple dose of Roundup will not begin to touch them.

Weed specialists at Corn Belt universities have been strongly recommending that farmers give young weeds a full dose, followed by residual herbicides applied to the soil to prevent weed seeds from germinating. That is because weeds are becoming immune to many herbicides applied after they are growing and their weak point is before they emerge from the soil.

That was before Aaron Hager at the University of Illinois released several years of research, after finding some particularly tough to control weeds in McLean County. His research discovered that waterhemp, the primary problem weed of the 21st Century, not only has developed resistance to five different groups of herbicides, but also has developed resistance to herbicides designed to kill it as it germinates in the soil.

This is equivalent to a space monster that has landed on Earth and cannot be controlled by the best weapons of all military forces. And 2019 just gave waterhemp a stronger foothold on cropland than it ever had before.

There is just one weapon that can control it, and unfortunately it cannot be applied with a 1,500 gallon sprayer with a 120-foot wide boom, or even crop dusters with the most talented pilots. That last successful method of eradication is carried by farmers and farm kids walking through fields with a weed hook in hand.

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Stu Ellis is an observer of the Central Illinois agriculture scene. In addition to his weekly column, you can view his “From The Farm” and “Harvest Heritage” reports on WCIA 3 News.

 

 

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