Talking Weed Issues Across Continents
What common ground did you discover in the weed resistance situation?
Fernando: We discovered many more things in common than differences. Of course there are different weed species: We don’t have blackgrass, for example, and Europe doesn’t have Palmer amaranth. Europe has no GMO so we didn’t take the same path but we’ve all ended up in the same place because we all have really huge weed resistance problems.
Richard: Everybody now knows there’s no silver bullet coming along. But this is a fairly recent conclusion so everybody’s trying different things to find out what works and then sharing that knowledge. We’re such a small world these days and we’ve got the technology to easily share ideas across continents because we all have similar problems. Occasionally someone will come up with a great idea and you think ‘Hey, I’ll try that!’ If it works, you tell your neighbours and the idea spreads. Different weeds, yes, but the ryegrass in Argentina is resistant to the same classes of herbicides and groups of chemistries as the ryegrass and blackgrass we have in Europe. So some of that knowledge is transferrable, which is great.
What did you learn from each other?
has a farm of around 8,000 ha in Trenque-Lauquen and a 1,900 ha farm in Rojas. Soybeans, wheat and corn are regularly grown at both farms, sunflowers occasionally.
Santiago: We learnt about the different thought processes in dealing with weeds. In the past tackling weeds was easy with just one herbicide. It was like playing checkers – just playing and reacting fast! You didn’t have to think about what your third or fourth move would be. But now it’s more like chess. You have to think in advance about what you’re doing because the move you make now may lead to another problem later. At the meeting we had with Richard at my farm we were thinking about crops and rotations for this year and future years with cover crops. We mentioned rye and suddenly Richard said: ‘Are you thinking about the fungus problem? It’s very good to have cover crops to deal with weeds and good for your soil, but you have to think in advance about what you’re doing because if you use the same host for weeds, rye, it’ll probably bring you a new problem in a few years. You have to think in advance – and not think about the weed you’re seeing right now.’ The way we did things in the past is useless today, and as Richard said, the new rule is that we don’t have any rules! We have to find different ways to deal with this weed problem, and the way to learn is not to have any secrets between farmers.
Richard: In Argentina I saw once again that the answer to managing weeds no longer comes out of a can. Now it’s all about a combined integrated approach with herbicides the last part of the puzzle. You have to be thinking about integrating cultural methods before you reach for that final piece, which is hopefully the chemistry that will give you as close as possible to 100% control.
farms 560 ha of arable land in Yorkshire where they are currently growing winter and spring wheat, winter rape, winter and spring beans, and linseed.
What was the most important take-away?
Santiago: We farmers learn most by listening to other and not having any secrets. We’ve got to get ready to solve new problems so we’ll also able to farm in the future. It’s like chess – you make a move and get a reaction from your opponent. You’ve got the white figures but the black ones are also playing the game! Coming together and staying in touch, listening and travelling like Richard did is the way to tackle these problems.
Richard: One of my biggest take-home messages was the thing about having no secrets. It’s such a simple message because farmers trust other farmers instinctively so that communication within the farming community is just vital. What I really liked in Argentina is that groups from one locality are meeting and talking through problems to come up with solutions as a group. That’s farmers helping farmers! We’ve now got the social media technology that’s enabling us to share ideas across continents.
Fernando: The biggest learning for me was that what used to work for us for many years has now stopped working. But now we’ve had a chance to better understand what we were doing so we’re building networks and doing more sharing and knowledge building. This will make us better farmers, better agronomists and better food producers after we’ve learnt to manage these problems.