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Our lives are frequently and significantly affected by food. Because we must eat to survive, many human cultures have developed with food at their very core. The goal of this podcast is to explore the complexity and nuance of the global food system, celebrate the progress we have made, and debate the best ways for humans to proceed forward into the future. 

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Feb 8, 2022

Listen to our first podcast of 2022, where we discuss weed management techniques, old and new, and the tools being developed to achieve food crop yield optimization with Vipan Kumar, Ph.D., Assistant Professor in the Department of Agronomy at Kansas State University. Weeds can reduce food crop yields by more than 30%.  In this podcast, Kumar discusses the ways in which this problem might be solved when the need for food production will continue to increase, and the challenges caused by climate change create a moving target.



“Diversity is the key to Sustainability; Challenges and opportunities in the field of Weed Science”.   


Diversity is the key for sustainability. You keep doing one thing again and again you will see a problem that we have seen in our herbicide based methods or weed control.


Something to chew on is a podcast devoted to the exploration and discussion of global food systems. It's produced by the Office of Research Development at Kansas State University. I'm Maureen Olewnik, coordinator of Global Food Systems. We welcome back co host Dr. Jim Stack Professor of Plant Pathology, weeds can reduce food crop yields by more than 30%. These interlopers compete for resources including soil nutrients and water. We attempt to control weed growth through chemistry, but over time they manage to mutate, overcome, thrive, and adjust to given management techniques. So how is this problem solved when the need for food production will continue to increase and the challenges caused by climate change create a moving target. Today, we will hear more about weed management techniques old and new. And the tools being developed to achieve food crop yield optimization with Dr. Vipan Kumar, Assistant Professor in the Department of Agronomy at Kansas State University, I want to welcome you Vipan would like to before we get started in the technical side of things, just get a little background and understanding of who you are and how you got to the place that you are today as far as your professional interests go.


Sure, So my name is Vipin Kumar, I'm originally from India. I did my bachelor in crop science, but finished in 2008 from Punjab Agricultural University back in India, in the state of Punjab, it's a Northwestern State in India, mainly known for wheat production and rice production. And it's very big in ag, Punjab state. So, my original goal was to help communities there, especially the farming communities to management practices they are doing so I did my bachelor there. And then I started my master actually mastering Weed Science in Pau 2008, fall 2008. But somehow I was also interested to come abroad and expand my education here in the States. So I was looking through some programs and during that time, I got to know there is a master positions open in Louisiana State. So I I applied there and I got invited and came over 2009 That was summer 2009 started my graduate research assistant with LSU, Louisiana State, Louisiana State University. So that program was specifically looking for someone who can help growers in terms of managing their irrigation water irrigation scheduling, developing some crop coefficients for the cotton prop in North East side of Louisiana. So I was based in actually a research center. It was in North East Louisiana, about five, four or five hours from the main campus Baton Rouge. So my whole research was on resource center and I got to know very few people there but I had a very excellent project to work with. So during that time, I was doing a master I got interested in Weed Science because wonderful. One of my committee member was a weed scientist. He was the superintendent with the research center and he was on my committee and glyphosate resistant Palmer Amaranth was kinda getting a lot of attention during that time in codon. So during that conversation and meeting with his students, I got interested in wheat science. So finishing master and then I started applying for PhD program. So I think during that time, there was not a whole lot of opportunity because of the economic constraints, but I found one position in Montana State University 2011 So I started my PhD 2011 in Montana State University, Bozeman, the whole my dissertation research was focused on herbicide resistant weeds, mainly Tumbleweed Kosha, looking at, you know, characterizing herbicide resistance evolution, how we can manage in terms of what strategies growers can use to control herbicide resistant Kosha in Different cropping systems. So, that was for four years I spent there and then just immediately after finishing my PhD, I started my postdoc there and two year postdoc in the same program in Montana State. So 2017 I got here at K State got this position, where I am in his as an assistant professor in Weed Science. Part of my responsibilities. I am 100% researcher. All the focus is on developing integrative weed management strategies for western Kansas. Looking at herbicide resistance evolution in weeds, what are the novel and innovative strategies we can come up for our dry land are no till dryland growers in western Kansas. So that's I have been doing last for more than 40 years in Hays, Kansas. And a little bit history on this tradition. My predecessor, Dr. Phil Stallman, he had spent 42 years on this role. He was kind of He's like one of the pioneer in herbicide resistance management in High Plains specially in dryland cropping system in Kansas. So right now leading a statewide program, research program and little bit outreach program because I've been involved with a lot of growers here are the my appointment is not extension or no extension tents, but the been doing some extension as well. So that's kind of in the nutshell, what I'm doing here. 


That’s great. Okay, well, thank you so much for that overview. That's helpful in me understanding a little bit more about what it is you're doing in reading through some of the information I found on your website about what you do, there was a lot of discussion on no till and the impact of no till on managing weeds and that type of thing. Can you tell me a bit more about what that term means and how it impacts the growing period?


Sure, since the dustbowl period, the soil conservation practices have been you know, taken place among growers in the main reason was those soil conservation practices were to conserve the soil and other resources for longer term because soil erosion in these areas, especially the Great Plains area, or High Plains area was pretty obvious. And because we control it was generally achieved by tillage. So folks still the ground and control the weeds in history, if you see that's like number one method it used to be and then USDA NRCS folks came up with this idea of conserving the soil not to till the ground just to preserve the soil from erosion as well as not to blow the surface soil where we have fertile soil. So, so no till is basically a concept brought up after the Dust Bowl period and got adopted by growers throughout the Great Plains. And no tillage equipments also got, you know, into the market after that like no till drills, no till planters, that growers don't have to till the ground to make the seed bed they can directly go and plant or drill their crops. And this idea or concept was achieved with the chemical weed control. So if you look at after 1940s, when the this chemical era started, like the two four D came into the market, or any other cleaning herbicide came into the market, one of those early products came into the market grower started using those and they found very convenient to kill those weeds and not till the ground. So this chemical era helped to adopt that concept of no tillage in High Plains as well as in throughout the Great Plains. So mostly what growers been doing is they don't tell the grounds they clean their fields before planting and after planting and in season crop by using chemicals and by using herbicides, so it's kind of serving to purpose they're controlling the weeds and they are also conserving the soil. Another aspect of doing no tillage is to conserve the moisture. We are in semi-arid regions our annual precip is not that great. If you look at historically we are between somewhere between 12 to 24 inches, you know depending on the place where you are in the Great Plains so doing a no tillage practice also helped conserving the moisture throughout the winters time. So whatever the snow or the moisture comes, if you don't do the ground, you know it stays there for the subsequent crop to plan and have the crop in place. There are two things basically conserving the soil and conserving the moisture that no till practice came into existence. But however, I would I also like to emphasize over the last 1015 years, what has happened is because we have relied too much on chemicals, too much on herbicides, and we are seeing evolution in weeds, they are developing or evolved resistance to these chemistries, what folks have been using in our systems. So herbicide resistant weeds have really, really become a threat to this Nortel production system and chemical industries are struggling in terms of bringing new chemistries into the market, because there is not a whole lot of investment going into bringing a new motor factions, especially from herbicide standpoint. So the dilemma is to control those herbicide resistant weeds, we need alternate strategies, alternate methods of weed control. So that's where my role kind of come into that where that fit is how we can combine different methods of weed control, including chemical or non chemical, and come up with some sort of sustainable system that can go in longer term.


Yeah, if I could follow up with a question. How prevalent is this problem globally? 


Herbicide resistance globally, it's, it is the number one problem for Weed Science communities as well as the grower community. Wherever folks have been using herbicides, we have been seeing increasing trend after 1980s, we have been seeing exponential increase in a number of cases of herbicide resistant weed population being reported, there is a website called Weed Science dot O R G, that documents every single case been reported to the world. And if you go to that website, you will see after 1980s, that graph has just jumped to the highest level. And it's not only one herbicide, it's basically, you know, all the available herbicide motor factions, we have reported case of resistance somewhere in the world. In the US, we are leading in that graph, country wise, in terms of herbicide resistance, the complicated issue is okay, one time a herbicide fails, for example, glyphosate. So folks start using other herbicides or other mode of action, but now been doing those things, we have been seeing multiple resistance in our weed populations. So resistance not only to one herbicide mode of action, but 23456, even six herbicide mode of action resistance in those weed species. So that's the challenge that we are having a limited options in terms of chemicals.


One of the quality parameters for seed, like the grains and things like that is the number of weed seeds that are also in with the grains. Is that a significant way of moving herbicide resistant genotypes around?


Yes, recently, what happened has most of our soybean, you know, most of our corn, we export to other countries. And there has been international standards in those products. And there's inert material and weed seeds are one of those standards. And recently, we have got email from our society, as well as USDA that come up with the plans how we can minimize those weed seeds in the crop seeds. Because some of the Chinese importer, they have stopped taking some of our soybean because of the big weed seeds present in those crop seeds. So it's a function of what is escaping in those crops, what is leaving in those crops at the time of harvest what you're harvesting with. And that's ultimately making those crop quality lower and making those export important difficult. And it's not only that they have they have also raised concern that hey, we don't have this, let's say big weed in China, you are sending herbicide resistant pigweed in our ways. So that's the hurdle with the growers how to sell those because the quality is lower in terms of having weed seeds in those. Those greens.


Yeah, so you mentioned some, weed genotypes with resistance to five, six or more chemistries. What's the strategy then? How do you get on top of this?


Yeah, I feel fortunate and excited some time that I'm in the field that where there is a lot of growth, there's a lot to do. I don't know if you have probably noticed that recently, a Weed Science area we have so many openings, so many positions coming up in industry as well as in academia and public sectors. And the reason is that we are struggling with these issues of resistance and crop weed competition in different scenarios. So, you know, considering that we are getting, you know, way back in terms of herbicide options. Industry is not coping up with the new molecules in the market. And we have more and more cases of resistance. So the shift of the research or read science research has gone to looking at non chemical strategies, what are the non chemical strategies we can bring into our system? So historically, as I said, folks used to do tillage. But in our system in Great Plains, High Plains, that's probably not a good recommendation, if you want to give folks will not like that, because we've been promoting that no till system for decades. And that is number one challenge. But in other areas, tillage is helping and it's helping those folks controlling those herbicide resistant weeds or multiple system weeds. Another approach we are looking at, what are the ecological tactics? How about the crop weed competition, how we can make our crops so competitive against weeds, that we don't have to rely too much on chemicals. One example I can give that is ecological method we are testing here is cover crops, how the cover crops can come into the system, and helps pressing those weed populations and reduce the seed bank. Again, these are not these ecological tactics don't work like chemicals, but they have a fit in our system. If we can, let's say suppress our weeds from 100 100 weeds to 70 weeds, there are still benefit having that. And you can add with the chemicals method of weed control. So that's just one example than other methods, we are looking as a non chemical methods or harvest weed seed control, that new thing is kind of getting a lot of interest among growers and researchers throughout the globe. So when I say harvest weed seed control is basically a technique when you're harvesting the crop, you have weeds in that crop, so you are harvesting the crop and you're also collecting those weed seeds. And then either you are destroying those weeds by crushing them when they're coming out of the Combine that's called harvest wheat seed destruction or you can put them as a CEF as a narrow line called chaff lining behind the combine. So this concept was brought up or discovered by a grower actually in Western Australia in a dryland wheat grower actually, just similar to what we have in western Kansas, he was struggling with the rigid ryegrass, multiple resistance to the rye grass. So what he did is he started destroying those rye grass seeds when he was harvesting wheat. So over the two, three years when he did that, he found that he reduced the seed bank, he didn't have to deal with that problem with the chemicals. So but in US or in North America, that technology has just arrived. And we are the first one in classes we have bought that destructor and Jeff minor. And we have got some USDA wants to test here in High Plains, how that's going to work in our system. I'm just giving example that those are the kind of approaches we are looking at it from the future work. Third thing which I really like to touch base is the proceeds. And that's the coming future of the Ag digital agriculture or Smart Agriculture. You can name it differently, but that's happening. So from a weed control research or weed control perspective, precision agriculture is another way to look at these problems or herbicide resistant weed problems.


So how specifically does the Precision Ag is it about applying chemical where it's needed when it's needed? Is that the strategy there? Or?


Yes, that there are different aspects there preseason agriculture or preseason technology is what we are, but I can envision is, you know, it can help us at least doing field mapping with to start with if we can detect early detection of herbicide resistant weed population in a farm. And then we can develop strategies accordingly. And again, then the next level of proceeds and that could be a variable rates of herbicide application or spot treatment. We don't need to spray the whole farm maybe, but just a little patch where we have herbicide resistant weeds growing. So that's where we can, you know, have precision ag tools helping us in the future if we have a good set of data, especially if you have good algorithms and good database, we can identify our pig weeds or Kosha or any other weeds in our crops, I think that can help making making your decisions or plans for weed control.


Yeah, thank you. Sorry, Maureen I’ve been dominating. 


No, that's okay. It was you know, as he was talking about some of the methods that they're looking at it. It took me back to my previous life. Were working in the food safety area, we focus heavily on integrated pest management, it sounds to me like the directions that you're heading now that the chemicals are not doing what they're supposed to necessarily be doing. You're looking at these integrated systems of trying to control those weed productions from a whole variety of different areas. And it may be that there are packages or approaches  that can be taken based on location based on crop type based on a variety of other things. But you will have that group of tools in your toolbox. Is that am I interpreting that correctly? 


Yes, yes, you're right, you're on the same page. The things are like with this herbicide resistance management, it's all economic aspects. Economy drives these things, the farmer economy, when they are going to make their weed control decision, they're going to look at what herbicide how much it takes, what is the rate? What is the cost. And if you see, like with the roundup resistant weeds, folks have been switching to other chemistries which are more expensive, and having more other issues as well as like drift to other crops or drift to other organisms from environmental standpoint. Also, chemical control is kind of getting ahead. In terms of some folks, they don't like some chemicals because they are hitting their other organism or other crops sensitive crops. And the second is, economically Is it viable to use that chemistries, for example, you know, most of the folks most of the industry, you might notice these days, they're giving a talk having a true two or three different herbicide mode of action in a tank, they have a pre mixes available two to three actives in those pre mixes. But those are very, very expensive. Those are not cheap products to use. So the idea with the growers with the lower commodity prices, they don't want to put those high expensive herbicides at especially when you are doing in a fallow weed management, you're not getting any output or any return in those fallow fields. So to make the system more economical, you need to think about where my money is going in terms of inputs, those herbicide applications and in fallow systems grower used to spray like three, four times in the season. It's not like one application, and they're done. They used to spray three times four times. And you can imagine like 5000 acres spraying three times $10 an acre, that can multiply pretty quick. So that's where I think the folks or the weed science community is thinking to bring some of those cost effective programs or cost effective management strategies in our system that not only helps pressing this problem or suppressing these weeds, but also give benefit to the growers, and the environment and ecology or agro ecology, like a cover crops. So we are not just thinking integrating cover crops for weed suppression. But we are thinking that cover crops can help suppressing weeds. It can help you know fixing nitrogen, it can help improving the soil quality soil health. And it can also be used for grazing purpose to the animals. So there is a livestock integration as well. So we have we are thinking from a system standpoint that can help folks to be more economically viable.


This next question is kind of out there as it's taking us probably outside of your major focus at this point. But I've done a little bit read a bit of reading recently on the land institute and some of the work they're doing in Salina on perennial grains. Have you looked at that at all or have any thoughts on perennial brains? And if there's any value to that and what impact it would have on what you work on?


Definitely, I have not personally looked at that system yet. But I've been hearing that quite a bit. And we have a cropping system specialist here in his he's been talking one other day was giving a presentation on that side of it. But I think again, I would like to emphasize that Perennial system or perennial grain springing into our system is basically improving you know, our our ecosystem and also increasing the economic value of the products as well as the farm profitability overall. And some of the work being led by cropping system specialist here or agronomist here. Also looking at those forage species or forage annual forages or biennial forages or perennial forages as a part of the system that can integrate into our system. So, from Weed weed management side of it, I think that would be a win win situation that if that species or if those grains or perennial grains can provide that kind of weed suppression benefits what we are getting from other cover crops. I think that's what we need.


So one of the reasons we care about weeds as the as we do the other pests as their impact on production and grow the crops for to feed people, we grow the crops to feed the animals that become the food that they feed people. Are there reasonable estimates of the economic impact or the yield impacts that you know, general rules of thumb? I know there, there are no exact numbers, but what what are we talking about in terms of scale of impact that we have on food production, but then also, what having herbicide resistant weeds contributes to that?


Definitely, there has been several reports in different crops. And I will just highlight some of the examples here for Kosha or, or Palmer Amaranth. Those are the prevalent species here in western Kansas or central part of state, if you like, look at some of the reports on Kosha. previous reports from my previous predecessor and other colleagues in other other states, they have found Kosha is quite competitive. Irrespective of resistance, let's say there's no resistance in these species. These weed species are very, very aggressive, very invasive. They have good traits, good biological traits, to compete very well with the crops. First, you need to understand that the biology behind those weeds, that's why they're becoming more and more troublesome problem for the folks here. So in terms of yield impact, I would say Kosha, let's say you know, you leave the kosher season long infestation in a crop like that the sugar bee does the least competitive crop in among all those crops, we grow in the northern or central Great Plains by up to 95% reduction in those sucrose yield as well as the beat heels we have reported. We have seen in the literature since 1970s 1980s. Wheat 20 to 30%. Yield reduction, going to be the kosher season long infestation, when I'm saying the Kosha is like moderate densities 40 to 50 plants per square meter, if they are present, they can do that 20-30% of damage to the yield big waves, they can choke our our sorghum. So one of the worst fields I have seen in my lifetime here in western Kansas is sorghum because the folks they don't have option, there's not not a single effective option that can go with for controlling pigweed controlling Palmer Amaranth in sorghum, especially when the sorghum is above certain stage, like 30 inch tall, there's no label chemistry to go with controlling pigweed. And that's the time I start getting calls from growers, hey, our pigweed is this much our Milo is already two feet tall, can I spray Dicamba that's the off label you cannot and if you do it, you will hurt you leave you will that will cause a crop injuries that will cause reducing the grain quality. So yeah, really impact. I mean, there's a huge impact. And you can imagine now if those species are resistant, and you are putting the chemical, and they are surviving 70% of those ceilings are surviving. And you know, going up to the seed production, you can imagine that you have put the cost to control it. Plus you still have a problem, and there is a double hit there.


Right. That's the double insult with resistance.


Right. So yeah, that's I think that's where we need to be more proactive. And we need to think more in longer term. The growers don't think in a longer term, they think on an annual basis because their budget is running annual basis. They have like let's say 5000 acres, they have a plan for 5000 acre for one year, they don't have a plan for three year or five years. That's where the problem starts. And as I said, economy drives all these things that resistance management. And that's become really, really challenging for researcher as well as extension person to convince folks to do things they're not doing.


You're talking about the aggressive nature of some of those weeds and thought just came into my mind on the genetics of those materials as any work being done at K State on the genetics of some of these weeds.


Yes, yes, we have a weed physiologist, weed physiology lab in in Manhattan. There has been quite a bit of work been done. And yeah, there's all kinds of different genetic mechanisms they have found in these weed species, why they are adapting to these kinds of situations herbicide applications. One example I can give here is Kosha and Palmer Amaranth. They have developed resistance to glyphosate commonly used chemistry or herbicide in our system in Roundup Ready crops. We have seen both species Palmer and Kosha. What they do is they multiply that target gene so they have more copies of that gene with the glyphosate go and target. So what it does is instead of one copy, single gene in they have Kosha has like 10-15-20 copies of that gene. So that Are those number of copies of that gene produce more enzyme, so the chemical cannot inhibit that much enzyme. So the those plants survive those treatments. That's how they are kinda adapting to that glyphosate treatments or other mechanism recently, weed physiology lab in Manhattan, they have found these multiple resistant pigweeds, what they are doing is they have enhanced metabolism. So some of the genes involved in metabolism in those plants, they got activated, and they are just metabolizing, whatever you're spraying. So no matter what, even a new chemistries is not even existing, it can just metabolic metabolite because it's not reaching to the target gene and hitting those targets side. So that is a more fearful thing happening in the nature, that metabolism based mechanism is also evolving in weed species. And as I said, it's a function of the biology of the species like palmer amaranth, very, very diverse genetic background Kosha. Same with very diverse genetic background, a lot of gene pools, they're sitting in those, you know, individuals and they can, they can adapt, and they can evolve to any of those stresses. Among other biological feature if you read about kosher Palmer, both are highly prolific seed producers, a single kosher plant can produce hundreds of 1000s of seeds. A one female Palmer Amaranth can produce millions of seeds. So that many seed production, it has potential to infest more areas, more lands, and keep going if you don't manage them properly.


Is dissemination and equipment. Problematic locally, though, going from one field to the next?


Yes, yes, big weed or Palmer Amaranth. We had a meeting North Central wheat science meeting, talking with the folks from North Dakota, and South Dakota, they have started seeing palmer amaranth, it was not the case, five years back. And that's happening because of movement of equipment, movement of products, like hay movement, or even animal feed, people take the animal feed and take to the other states, and those farmer seeds go with that. And, and infest those areas. So that's kind of tricky, you know, managing those moments is very, very difficult. That's where we kind of emphasize that control those weeds in the field, so that you don't have to deal with in the products. Okay, or, or green or or equipments. For weeds like Kosha, it's a tumbleweed and doesn't need that many it can tumble miles and miles when the wind is blowing. And that's the kind of beauty of that weed species that finds new areas of infestations with the high winds, especially in the high plains, it can tumble, it's very hard to kind of contain that.


How is the contaminated seeds physically removed from the grain itself? I'm sitting here trying to get in my mind if we're going to be selling to other countries, and they've got obviously a lower limit that's allowed in there. Is there some kind of assuming practice or an air movement as the heavier seed goes through? How's that done?


Yeah, I don't know exactly how that will happen. Because this year, we are talking like a bulk export. And folks just take the produce from the field and sell it to the coop cooperative marketing places and I don't know how much storage they have, and it gets pretty big pretty quickly. So that's where we try to emphasize to the grower Hey, you know, if you can manage in the field, that's the best you can do. You don't let it go to the produce or to the greens I see that's where this harvest we'd see destruction is going to have a fared very well that can destroy the weed seeds don't don't don't let it go into the grains and escape folks to get the contaminated grains. And it's not only that in crops like wheat, we have a problem we have a central Kansas growers they've been dealing with awry federal MRI or CT or MRI issues. So those dry what it does is it contaminate it has allergen, so it contaminate the grains when you export to the you know, Asian country, they don't take that because they are allergic to that allergens in CRI. So the idea there is and it's very difficult there's no inseason chemical you can try and control in wheat unless you have herbicide resistant weed like waxy and wheat or Learfield weed where you can spray some of the herbicide and get rid of those grass species. So in those situation against this see destruction can really really help folks not letting those weeds eat grains in the in the crop grains.


Is there a limit in the seed size? Or? I think that new technology sounds excellent for being able to destroy the seed in the field, or the limit that in terms of which species would be vulnerable.


Yeah, yeah, those are all questions we are trying to address here as a future research in Australia, they have destroyed these rigid ryegrass that's quite a bigger size like a wheat grain size of the wheat seeds we are talking. But the things we are talking here like big weeds, very tiny small black color seed and waterhemp or Kosha. They're very tiny, tiny seeds, very small seed seed weeds. As per my experience. I have gotten the unit last Wolsey last fall September and we put together there was a technical team came and put on a combine and let's try that one of the grower field, we took it by miles south of Hayes and run on a grower farm was heavily infested with the Palmer Amaranth. I couldn't see even a sorghum plant, as all Palmer Amaranth. And I was trying to do that. The idea was how that goes, I was very curious how much destruction it can do especially in crop like sorghum, when it's green, and you know, high material, you're going through the combine what kind of destruction it can do, I was very, very curious. But somehow I found that we collected some of the samples out of the combine, and behind the Combine of that destructor I was always amazed to see like 85-90% of destruction is was doing on those Palmer Amaranth seed, those tiny, tiny seed was kind of pulverized. It was like powder form after that. So I was pretty amazed. So I was telling my team of folks from Iowa State and University of Arkansas, we're gonna run this in soybean, corn, as well as sorghum plots in the coming season to see if what it does and what how the crop species or the how the crop varieties also matters, using this technology, not only weed species, and then how the environment impact those results in high plane versus Midwest versus mid south, how things change from region to region, crop to crop, weeds to weeds. And with this, this grant, we have also a Ag Econ person on the team. So I'm going to look at the economic side of it. Because as I said, economy drives everything. And if you're gonna promote this technology, where we stand in terms of economy, is it cost effective? Is it sustainable? So I think I'm telling more future research here. But that's, that's going to happen.


Good. Good. Sounds promising. Yeah.


Pretty interesting, pretty exciting. And along with that, we are also not looking at one tool at a time. Our main mission with this project, which we got funded by NIFA, based on our TFS grant was to having bringing all the tools together, it's like bringing little hammers together. So we have a cover crops early in the season, we have herbicides applied. And then at the end of the season, we're gonna do see destruction versus Jeff lining, and comparing with what growers are normally doing conventional harvest. So there are three different approaches, we are trying to bring in one growing season, to say, hey, early season management with the cover crop, herbicides, late season management, or weed seed management, with this destructor or outlining how they come together as a system, and help growers if they're struggling with some of these multiple resistant pigweeds.


I appreciate your mentioning the seed grant and appreciate you having come to Manhattan to present the results of that work recently. And that information will be up on our website in the near future. We'll have all of those and have those available for anyone to listen to, as well. I'm glad to hear that it panned out into a larger grant. So that's great.


Yes. And that was really, really good support to get that kind of grant and reach out to the folks what they're really looking for the survey we did me and Sarah, we learn a lot. And some of that information. We just plug in our proposal. And it sold out pretty quickly. And to your surprise, and to my surprise, that proposal was ranked number one in CPPM in the country was in that program, NIFA CPPM program and the Secretary with agriculture wrote a letter to the PI. That was excellent proposal to put together for such kind of strategies to look in the soybean system.


Congratulations on that. That's great. 


Yeah, that's, yeah, that was really, really a great help from the TFs good Add money in that we could create some data to supplement data for the proposal.


But you know, the phenomenon of resistance is just creeping through agriculture. So it's the herbicide resistant weeds. It's the fungicide resistant pathogens. It's the antibiotic resistant bacterial. And we really need to get a handle on it, if we're going to continue to produce at the levels we've been producing. So I'm wondering if the strategies you're looking at it, if there are some general principles that you think will be helpful in, in the other arenas, as well, not just the herbicide resistance, but in the others?


Yeah, the basic principles, we are looking at the diversity in our system, I think, diversity is the key for sustainability, you keep doing one thing again, and again, you will see a problem that we have seen in our herbicide based methods of weed control, you've been doing same chemistries over and over, we have seen resistance issues, diversity, could be anything diverse cropping systems and diverse, you know, diverse methods of weed control, doing different things, you don't give same thing to that we don't do that best again and again, that that test start adapting to that matters or that strategy. So every year you change that strategies and give something new to the past and head those past with a different approach. So diversity, I think, is the key, what we are trying to achieve with this eating greater weed management system or ITM systems that you bring diversity in crop diversity in your herbicide diversity in your read species, overall system wide. I think that's the key principle we are looking at it. And that can be translated easily to the other disciplines, like, as you mentioned, plant pathology or entomology, not to look at one strategy or one thing at a time, but looking at the system level, where things can be bring and can bring that diversity into the system.


I love this area. You mentioned that there are a lot of opportunities right now for weed scientists. And I look at the agronomy department here at K State. It's been really strong in terms of the scope of capabilities, the expertise that's in that department. It's pretty impressive what they've got within one department. So what if there are students that listen to this the either graduates or undergraduate students listening to this? What skill sets? Would you recommend chemistry? I mean, ecology, what skill sets would you recommend if they want to help tackle this problem?


Yeah, that's a great question. As I mentioned, a lot of opportunities coming for fresh graduates and a lot of weed science positions recently opening up in academia, industry and other public sectors and private sectors. What I see as the weed scientists in this position, the four most important skill sets I can see is the knowledge of field based research, field based Weed Science Research, every fresh graduates they need. And then training of all the plants, science, biochemistry, physiology, genetics are those are specialized area already there. If you can take little bit of that have some expertise, you don't need to be doing five different projects in that area. But if you have little, little component of those areas, that really, really help understanding the problem, you know, from the root stand point of view, but applied Weed Science, statistical skills, how to handle the data, because the future is all about the data. With all this digital agriculture, you're going to tackle with the big data set, how to look at the data, there is a lot of data but what you make of out of the data. So statistical analysis, or analytical skills are also very, very important. And then you can also look at the mysteries in Weed Science, especially herbicide you need to know what you're doing and what you're tackling with. Because again, 70%, more than 70% of the calls the growers give me is they asked me the option herbicide option. They don't ask me, Hey, should I try this cover crop? They simply asked Hey, can I spray they can buy glyphosate is not working? How expensive? Is there a generic one? Is there a lower price one what is the formulation? All kinds of chemistry related question will come if you are going to go to those real world situations like applied weed sign, you know Precision Ag or engineering side of it. If you can learn some of the skills. I think that's the benefit as well, because that's happening right now. Preseason agriculture tools, a lot of weed science folks, they have started really using it and implementing into their programs. And that's going to be the future. A lot of the industry investment is going into that digital agriculture, especially from pest management, especially from weed management perspective. So those are some of the skills I just listed is applied Weed Science, applied field based research, chemistry knowledge, little bit of those physiology, genetics, biochemistry is knowledge, statistical analytical approaches. And procedure neck, I think, if you have little bit of all of those, and you can sell yourself, you will get the job, I'm sure. But for the weed scientists, as far as I know, yeah.


Thank you. Thanks.


Great question. And great, good bit of information for the students here on campus to file away as they think about what they want to work on. Yes.


And I think I would also encourage undergraduate students if they are interested in in ag and if they are specifically interested in in weeds or any other pairs, they should do some project, they should contact folks on Main Campus or research center to get involved and to get learn how to handle the project or what to do in terms of research and how the research is conducted and how the data is handled. That's pretty basic. But there's quite a bit of learning before you get into your graduate schools, or Masters or PhD. If you can do a little project in undergrad that'd be really, really helpful.


I enjoyed this conversation quite a great. One other big challenge on the horizon is, of course, climate change. And a number of studies done on how it's impacting the migration of plant populations and impacting fertility of some plant species, things like that it does that come into play here in terms of weed management?


Yes, exactly. If you talk about climate change, or drastic changes in environmental conditions, weaves are one of those first pieces who will adapt to these changes, because they have highly diverse genetic background. And they have already been doing that molecular weight science program in Colorado State has been looking at Kosha from different angle. So they're trying to sequence the whole genome, they're trying to characterize some of the genes, good genes, they call it good genes, which are helping this Kosha to adapt cold treatments, or frost or drought, or heat, or salt, or even herbicide resistance, how those genes can be incorporated into our crops to make them more resilient for the future. Okay, so that's kind of angle to look at these weed species, we have that gene pool in those species, why don't we characterize and understand then how, and what they can do when we incorporate those gene in our crops for the future crops that can be resilient to the, to the these changes in climate environment. But as I said, changing climate changing environment, adaptation is going to be happen, evolution is going to happen in those weed species. Along with that, what's going to happen is interaction of the chemistry with the plant and the environment is going to change. And that's very critical to understand the efficacy of some of the chemicals we are seeing now probably will not be there into that future environmental future climate. Just because plant adapt, and they adapt differently, they have TIG cuticle, for example, the chemical may not penetrate that cuticle in the future, and cannot give you 90 95% control versus less than 70% control. So the efficacy is going to change or with increasing temperature or increasing carbon dioxide, C three C four species who's going to win and depending on those weeds species are those C three or C four, the shift will happen. And there'll be lot to play with climate and the principles of precipitation, how the precipitation change globally, some of these root shifts, also gonna share some some of the prediction has been done. Okay, if Great Plains start getting more rain, for example, we start going to see waterhemp coming this way, in Great Plains, if it's going to get more drier. Kosha is going to start going towards Midwest. There are predictions happening. And I think that's true, based on the biology of those weed species and based on the history of those species, how they have infested, and they have line ated themselves in those geography based on the climate. 


Vipan, you had talked about when you were first over in the US you were working in Louisiana State working on cotton. And with climate change, I'm sure that that impacts this we're seeing cotton work its way into Kansas cropping Are you seeing? I mean, I know your focus is on the weed side of things. But are you seeing some of those other types of crops moving in more and more into these areas, some of the crops that we're used to moving Further north and having some new impacts of weed stress and that type of thing coming in with these new prompts.


Definitely, with changing things with the changing environment and climate, these things are happening. And we need to be very resilient in terms of adopting those things, changing things like we were doing this faculty meeting other day and prioritizing our missions for the unit other days. So one of the priority we have have for next 1015 20 years is to look at alternative crops, new crops, basically what folks need, provided that our conditions get changed, our environment gets changed, we get less peace, we get more dry land, what are the alternative crops, things like barley, millet is number one can be adapted to in the West, that has not been expanded. There's a lot of potential for that crop. There's a lot of potential for canola in the southwest Kansas. That has been happening already happening expanding. In as you mentioned, cotton, yes, it has gone up. It was not the case five, six years ago, but it has gone up 300,000 acres of cotton in Kansas, can you imagine. And then over the top of that you can see the changes, the commodity Commission's have started funding some of the positions for those areas as well, they are looking for a pattern specialist in Kansas, they can support this. So things have been changing with the climate change with environmental change, as well as you know, other changes. And one thing I can I can say for sure, from a read science perspective, you bring new things, new crops, for example, that has long term impacts on our weed population. Some of the previous studies, long term studies, 1020 years long term studies have shown that the crop rotation in competitive crops and what kind of crop you're growing, will have ultimate impact on those wheat population. If you are growing, for example, let's say highly competitive crop like corn, or could be any cereal grains, that grows pretty aggressively, it can shift some of those wheat population over the time, a study done in Nebraska has shown that you keep doing this corn soybean rotation, you will see more and more issues weather resistant Kosha and resistant big weed, but you will bring cereal into the system, you will lower down some of those resistance issues is because the crop competition expressed those cycles of those weed species and don't let them produce seeds. So weight shift is going to happen when these crop change is going to come into play in our system. But as again, I said we have to be very resilient and proactive, like things are happening. And it's going to happen, especially from climate change standpoint. So we need to be resilient, or what alternative crops we can grow. And we can still make these folks or the growers more profitable in the future. Considering all these constraints, weeds and other pests we will have.


Yeah, I'm hoping for mango and oranges.


I'm not sure on that. One more. Yes, really,


This has been a really a fun and interesting discussion. Well, thank you so much for your time. And thank you, Jim, for joining us as well. Do you have any final remarks, or any questions you might have for us before we sign off?


Well, I would like to thank you both for your time. And also I like to reiterate that the support I got through the GFS Grant was pretty timely, and very supportive. And I could develop that project based on that information. So I would keep looking at future opportunities from GFS folks that I can come up with and collaborate with folks from other disciplines. And I would encourage young faculty at K State to look for those opportunities. And to come up with ideas there where they can collaborate with folks like me sitting in Hays versus in you know, in Manhattan and we come to know each other. That's a great opportunity and really appreciate all the support you guys have.


So glad it worked out well. And thank you for your efforts. They're very much.


Thank you.


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Our music was adapted from Dr. Wayne Goins’s album Chronicles of Carmela. Special thanks to him for providing that to us. Something to Chew On is produced by the Office of Research Development at Kansas State University.