MONDAY, April 15, 2024

Scientists call for novel approaches to tackle agricultural weeds

Scientists call for novel approaches to tackle agricultural weeds

A group of leading weed scientists and researchers on Monday called for a simple but comprehensive weed management strategy to be implemented in order to sustain food security.

The suggestion came as more than 300 weed scientists and experts from 44 countries around the world gathered in Bangkok for the five-day 8th International Weed Science Congress, themed "Weed Science in a Climate of Change”.

Samunder Singh, president of International Weed Science Society (IWSS), said at the opening ceremony on Monday that the world is undergoing rapid change, with increased demand for food and agricultural goods.

He indicated that the challenges facing agriculture today are numerous, including climate and demographic changes.

"One of the most important biological factors impacted by these changes is weed. Therefore, weed scientists must devise novel approaches to managing this important agricultural pest," Singh said.

CGIAR System Management Office's Martin J Kropff agreed with Singh. He noted that as long as people rely on soil for cultivation, they will have to deal with weeds.

Martin J Kropff

He stated that weeds are a major issue for farmers when it comes to growing crops and increasing productivity.

As the cultivation process must be accelerated in order to produce enough food for several billion people, the world must develop innovative and simple weed management solutions, Kropff said.

Renaud Deval, head of global product biology, R&D, at Syngenta crop protection, added that new weed solutions mean you can't rely solely on herbicides.

He explained that increasing weed resistance must be balanced with maintaining healthy ecosystems, which are heavily impacted by factors such as climate change and soil erosion.

"We must examine the weed control tool kit through the new lens. The solution must be holistic in order to safely feed the world while caring for the planet. With world-class science and innovative crop solutions, we hope to improve agriculture's sustainability, quality, and safety,” Deval said.

In terms of herbicides, he admitted that it is impossible not to use them because weed growth and resistance are currently outpacing farmers' ability to handle them. As a result, using a chemical is beneficial. Farmers, on the other hand, must be educated on the proper portion and method of use.

Caio Vitagliano Santi Rossi

Meanwhile, Caio Vitagliano Santi Rossi from Herbicide Resistance Action Committee pointed out that in order to promote global sustainable stewardship of weed management, a diverse strategy tailored to the context of each farmland is required.

He added that those plans must be simple and easy to implement in order for farmers to take action while also saving them time and money.

Furthermore, technologies and innovation have played a vital role in changing the nature of weed management, according to Steven A Fennimore of the University of California Davis.

He said that growing computing power at the field scale has enabled the development of weed management tools that use deep learning to distinguish between crops and weeds.

As a result, it assists farmers in eliminating weeds and increasing productivity.

The conference also discussed using genomics and agronomy methods to find heat and drought-tolerant varieties.

The 8th International Weed Science Congress is being held at the Marriott Marquis Queen's Park in Bangkok from December 4-9. Several subjects such as weed biology, weed management, herbicide resistance and climate aspects of weed science will be presented.

The conference is held every four years for weed scientists to share their progress and bring in new solutions.

Luis Antonio de Avila, secretary of the International Weed Sciences Society and vice president of the Brazilian Weed Science Society, pointed out that the whole idea of the conference is to try to cope and fight the challenges that they have now, such as climate change, the food crisis, war, and the genetic crisis, as well as other challenges that they will face in the future.

Aside from finding new weed management solutions and reducing reliance on herbicides, De Avila anticipates that the conference will help raise awareness among governments around the world to increase investment in policies for improving weed management, new technology, and public communication. This would enable farmers to have sustainable weed management methods.

Chanya Maneechote, president of the Weed Science Society of Thailand, added that this international congress will be a great opportunity for Thailand to learn various case studies of how the world tackles weed properly, rather than simply prohibiting the use of hazardous chemicals like paraquat, as the Thai government does without any other measures to back it up.