Can anything be done about herbicide-resistant weeds in U.S. crops?
The herbicide is as important for global food production as penicillin is for human health.
The short answer is yes. This starts with realizing that glyphosate — Roundup and other trade names — is a precious resource for current and future harvests. Glyphosate is the world’s greatest herbicide. In my view glyphosate is a one-in-a-hundred-year discovery that is as important for global food production as penicillin is for global human health.
Yet glyphosate is failing in corn, soybean and cotton crops in the American Midwest and South because of massive overuse. This is also happening in Argentina and Brazil. For some U.S. grain and cotton producers it is already too late: over-reliance on glyphosate has led to the evolution of glyphosate-resistant weeds, and alternative chemical and non-chemical solutions will be required.
However, for many, glyphosate is still working, and these farmers have the opportunity to make changes now to give themselves the best chance that glyphosate will work for future harvests. This will call for diversifying crops and giving glyphosate a rest by using other herbicides and non-chemical weed control tools that make sense. Diversity offers the best chance of saving glyphosate.
Glyphosate should be conserved for future harvests in the U.S. and world crops because without glyphosate, global grain production becomes more difficult. And that will have a large effect on the global food supply.