Weed Science—a new scientific discipline, has evolved and caused a revolution in agricultural technology. Weeds and their control are basically ecological and economic problems. The losses caused by weeds and the cost of their control, now estimated to exceed $4½ billion annually, are motivating forces in the revolution.
The technological revolution in Weed Science is characterized by the rapid and extensive acceptance and use of chemical weed control methods, expanded scope and diversity of weed research, advances in Weed Science technology, needs and challenges for advances in future technology, impact of chemical weed control on farm management practices, and its effect on the objectives and direction of agricultural research and educational programs.
Chemical methods of weed control greatly reduce energy requirements on farms. Herbicides reduce the manpower, machine hours, and machine horsepower requirements in crop production. Thus, herbicides provide a new dimension for improving farming efficiency and lowering production costs.
In 1962, chemical methods of weed control were used on more than 70 million acres of agricultural land at a cost of more than $272 million, as compared to approximately 53 million acres treated in 1959 at a cost of $128 million, a 33 percent increase in the acreage treated in 1962. The acreage treated in 1962 was equivalent to about 25 percent of the national crop acreage. These use data do not include chemical weed control on industrial sites and other non-agricultural lands.
Chemical weed control is having a far-reaching impact on all phases of crop production. New chemical methods of weed control will affect choice of crop and variety; seedbed preparation; method of seeding; seeding rates; row spacing; plant spacing in the row; plant populations; fertilizer practices including type, time of application, and placement; cultivation; irrigation practices; harvesting; seed-cleaning operations; erosion control; fallow practices for weed control; disease and insect control practices; pasture renovation; pasture and range management; clearing new lands for crops or pasture; forest management; utilization of farm water resources for irrigation and recreation; and maintenance of drainage ditches, ditchbanks, irrigation canals, and farm roadsides.
Agriculture is on the horizon of a second-generation breakthrough in production efficiency because of the revolution in Weed Science. Already the accomplishments made possible by this revolution have established the necessity for a new research cycle in crop production that can result in new plateaus of crop yields, crop quality, and production and harvesting efficiency.