Weed science directions in the USA: what has been achieved and where the USA is going

Stephen O. Duke, United State Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, PO Box 350, Stoneville, Mississippi 38776, USA. Presented at the Eleventh Australian Weeds Conference, 30 September-3 October 1996, University of Melbourne, Australia.


Weed science in the United States is at a critical juncture. The ranks of weed scientists are dwindling due to attrition in both the private and public sectors. Funding for weed science research in the public sector is decreasing. Yet, there is a growing demand for solutions to the environmental damage done by conventional weed management methods, to the spectre of widespread herbicide-resistant weeds, and to the spread of exotic weeds. Furthermore, the need for good public sector research to assist farmers in economically managing weeds is as great as ever. These needs are likely to remain for decades to come, insuring that weed science will continue to be a necessary discipline for insuring an adequate and economical food and fibre supply while preserving the environment.

Several new technologies promise to help weed scientists in solving the above problems. Significant reductions in herbicide use by advances in precision agriculture, integrated pest management, computer-aided decision making, utilization of high unit activity herbicides, and biocontrol can be expected. Adoption of no-till agriculture will certainly reduce the two major environmental risks of weed management, soil erosion and contamination of water by herbicides. Transgenic, herbicide-resistant crops are likely to have a net effect of improving the environmental acceptability of weed management methods while reducing farmers' costs. Even though the tools to solve existing and future weed management problems are being developed, a cadre of well-trained weed scientists will remain necessary to continue to discover, develop, and adapt new technologies to meet the continually changing challenge of managing weeds.


Plant Protection Quarterly (1997) 12 (1) 2-6.