As we near the end of the planting season, the concern for rootworm, aphids and other pests and weeds is a thought in the back of every farmers mind. It is especially worrisome if the crops that used to be effective in the resistance of weeds and insects are now facing more resilient pests that have adapted to the genetically engineered seeds and sprays that have been spread over fields for the past 15 years. The resolution: rotation of crops.
It’s easier said than done.
Even though rotation of crops is the only environmentally friendly and, ultimately, the best way to deal with insects and weeds that have adapted, it is hard for farmers to do. When the economy has a high demand for corn, a farmer will plant corn. Planting a different crop will just be a loss; it wouldn’t be economically feasible. Most farmers are forced to use more pesticides and herbicides to deal with the difficult pests. Seed companies like Monsanto are working on stronger chemicals and different genetically engineered seeds for farmers, but the pests will just keep adapting to the use of stronger (and more toxic) chemicals.
Genetically engineered crops were created originally to replace and/or reduce the tilling of land; a method of getting rid of weeds that can cause erosion and chemical runoff in fields and can be more costly and labor intensive. “GM” seeds such as Roundup Ready soybeans and Bt corn is a better alternative and has worked successfully for a while. Environmental chemicals do not affect non-target species, degrade quickly under normal conditions, and remain immobile in soil. These desirable features seemed to work great, but now farmers face resistant weeds such as pigweed and insects like the corn rootworm.
According to an article by Josephine Marcotty from the StarTribune, there are “an estimated 23 weeds around the world that no longer die when doused with Roundup.” This is a huge problem when the agriculture industry is dominated by corn and soybeans,. A full 90 percent of the soybeans and 70 percent of the corn in the U.S. that is of the Roundup Ready brand according to the New York Times article “Farmers Cope With Roundup-Resistant Weeds” by William Neuman and Andrew Pollack.
Many farmers agree that agriculture is back to where it was 20 years ago. Instead of advancing, agriculturalists are going back, dealing with more pests than usual, which is a concern for everyone. This issue may cause an increase in food prices for the consumer and lower crop yields for the farmer.
Eventually farmers will have to use rotation as a way to be rid of these pests, or use stronger chemicals which may work only temporarily until the pests adapt again.
Katelyn Asfeld is a Kimball native, farm girl, and University of Minnesota student majoring in Agricultural Communications.
She is writing for us this summer. Please contact us if you have a story idea for Katelyn! (320) 398-5000 or (320) 453-6397 (NEWS).