Is weed resistance to Roundup technology increasing?

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Agriculture and genetically modified technology was again under the media microscope yesterday.

According to an article in the New York Times, “Just as the heavy use of antibiotics contributed to the rise of drug-resistant supergerms, American farmers’ near-ubiquitous use of the weedkiller Roundup has led to the rapid growth of tenacious new superweeds.” This increased weed resistance “could temper U.S. agriculture’s enthusiasm for genetically modified technology,” the authors add, suggesting that this would lead to a return to production practices undesirable to the environment.

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But how serious of an issue is Roundup weed resistance? Roughly seven million to 10 million acres are affected out of approximately 170 million acres used for corn, soybean and cotton production, according to the New York Times article. 

Therefore, it is prudent to pay attention to this important management concern, but agriculture is not without options to control it.

“Weed resistance is a serious issue, and we don’t want to end up losing this valuable tool (Roundup),” says Joe Lauer, University of Wisconsin agronomist. “But realize that in corn and soybeans we have many tools that we can use to control weeds. Good, old-fashioned rotation of herbicides and crops go a long way toward slowing resistance.”

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