The troubles that weeds can cause

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The Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) has completed a significant new initiative to quantify the impact of weed control on dry bean and sugar beet crops grown in the U.S. and Canada.  The Society’s Weed Loss Committee compared the performance of crops grown in weedy, untreated control plots to years of production data provided by researchers and extension specialists. Sugar beet data was collected for the 15-year period between 2002 and 2017, while dry bean data was collected for the 10-year period between 2007 and 2016.

Committee members discovered that about 70 percent of each crop would be lost if weeds were left uncontrolled, resulting in a combined cost to growers of about $2 billion annually. They also determined that every dollar invested in weed management produced significant returns – an estimated $12 and $23 for growers of dry beans and sugar beets, respectively. The most troublesome weeds in those crops include common lambsquarters and kochia, as well as species in the pigweed (Amaranthus) and nightshade (Solanum) genera.

“It is clear that weed management is an important investment,” says Anita Dille, Ph.D., of Kansas State University and chair of the WSSA Weed Loss Committee.  “We need to take every step to ensure it stays that way – from conducting additional research to promoting effective stewardship of herbicides and other tools in our weed management arsenal.”

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