Crop Protection Innovation–At War with Pests, Weeds, and Disease

Crop Protection Contributions toward Agricultural Productivity–A paper in the series on The Need for Agricultural Innovation to Sustainably Feed the World by 2050 (full paper here, one-page Ag quickCAST here, video of presentation here) Photo from presentation cohosted by CropLifeAmerica: Presenter Susan T. Ratcliffe (top left), CropLifeAmerica President and CEO Jay Vroom next to Dr. Ratcliffe, and CAST EVP Kent Schescke at top center.
CAST’s new peer-reviewed, science-based research paper examines the current and evolving efforts to ensure our food security.
Many rely on just a few to provide food and fiber–and crop protection techniques are a major factor in this essential productivity. But the continued reliance on past methods alone threatens modern-day food security. Innovation and a push for the development of integrated plant protection technologies must continue to provide effective, economical, and efficient pest management. 
The authors of this CAST Issue Paper examine the current plant protection revolution that is driven by the biological realities of pesticide resistance, various market forces, and real or perceived side effects of pesticides. They point out that “crop protection chemicals have been miraculous, but their automatic use is no longer efficacious or justifiable.”
This science-based review considers many plant protection trends, including the following:
Led by Task Force Chair Susan T. Ratcliffe, the authors of this paper consider new technologies such as drones, smart sprayers, and specially designed cultivators–and they examine current biotech advancements such as CRISPR-Cas9 and other techniques that may fit well into integrated systems. They emphasize the need for research, communication, and collaboration as scientists “develop integrated strategies for managing pests while preserving ecosystem services and farm productivity.”
 Zombie Weeds Haunt Crop Lands Again
As a past blog pointed out, herbicide resistant weeds are becoming more prevalent. The excerpt below explains how some farmers fought weeds in days past–it was hand-to-hand combat. The full blog is here.
In the early ‘60s, soybean fields made for good talking points. By June it was obvious which would need to be “walked”—weeded by stoop laborers…or teenagers…or us. Farmers would hire youngsters to go row-by-row to pull weeds. My brothers, cousins, and I started walking beans on the home place about as soon as we were potty-trained, but Dad let us hire out to neighbors by the time we were 12 or so. Child labor laws were flexible then, and the 50 cents an hour wage that first year didn’t bring the IRS down on us either.

We’d often start early to beat the heat; dew-drenched, with mud sticking to our Keds’ tennis shoes, we’d trudge along, pulling most weeds, chopping some, and basically wrestling with the ones that seemed more like small pine trees. Heat, thirst, and blow flies were irritating, but mud clod fights with a cousin eight rows over could be dangerous. It was satisfying to see the field get “clean and tidy” several rows at a time, but we were really after pocket money to buy a top-40 single or admission to the roller skating rink a farm family had set up in a nearby converted hog barn.
by dan gogerty (visual courtesy of Jack Bacheler and Communication Sevices, N.C. State Univ. in Perspectives, the Magazine of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, NCSU, Winter 2009)

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