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The U.S. Department of Agriculture–Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) has been a leader in weed science research covering topics ranging from the development and use of integrated weed management (IWM) tactics to basic mechanistic studies, including biotic resistance of desirable plant communities and herbicide resistance. ARS weed scientists have worked in agricultural and natural ecosystems, including agronomic and horticultural crops, pastures, forests, wild lands, aquatic habitats, wetlands, and riparian areas. Through strong partnerships with academia, state agencies, private industry, and numerous federal programs, ARS weed scientists have made contributions to discoveries in the newest fields of robotics and genetics, as well as the traditional and fundamental subjects of weed–crop competition and physiology and integration of weed control tactics and practices. Weed science at ARS is often overshadowed by other research topics; thus, few are aware of the long history of ARS weed science and its important contributions. This review is the result of a symposium held at the Weed Science Society of America’s 62nd Annual Meeting in 2022 that included 10 separate presentations in a virtual Weed Science Webinar Series. The overarching themes of management tactics (IWM, biological control, and automation), basic mechanisms (competition, invasive plant genetics, and herbicide resistance), and ecosystem impacts (invasive plant spread, climate change, conservation, and restoration) represent core ARS weed science research that is dynamic and efficacious and has been a significant component of the agency’s national and international efforts. This review highlights current studies and future directions that exemplify the science and collaborative relationships both within and outside ARS. Given the constraints of weeds and invasive plants on all aspects of food, feed, and fiber systems, there is an acknowledged need to face new challenges, including agriculture and natural resources sustainability, economic resilience and reliability, and societal health and well-being.
Glyphosate and paraquat are effective preplant burndown herbicide options for multicrop vegetable production that uses plastic mulch, but problematic weeds such as wild radish, cutleaf evening primrose, annual morningglory, or horseweed may not be adequately controlled with these herbicides alone. The herbicides 2,4-D and dicamba could help control these troublesome weeds prior to planting if they can be removed from plastic mulch and thus avoid crop damage. Treatments included 2,4-D (1,065 and 2,130 g ae ha−1) and dicamba (560 and 1,120 g ae ha−1) applied broadcast over plastic mulch a day before transplanting. Just before transplanting, treatments received either 0.76 cm of water via overhead irrigation or no irrigation. Plastic mulch samples were collected at application and planting to determine herbicide presence using analytical techniques, and cantaloupe and zucchini squash were subsequently transplanted on the plastic beds. Analytical ultra-high performance liquid chromatography revealed that 88% to 99% of the initial herbicide concentration was present at crop planting when irrigation was not implemented. At most, a 1/50 rate of dicamba and a 1/500 rate of 2,4-D was present at planting when overhead irrigation was applied prior to transplanting. Maximum cantaloupe and squash injury from 2,4-D with irrigation was 10% and did not influence plant growth, biomass, or yield. For dicamba with overhead irrigation, cantaloupe injury was 35%, vine lengths were reduced by 24%, and maturity was delayed, whereas squash injury ranged from 9% to 12%, with no influence on growth or yield. Without irrigation to wash herbicides from the mulch prior to planting, 60% to 100% injury of both crops occurred with both herbicides. Zucchini squash was more tolerant to dicamba than cantaloupe. Results demonstrated that 2,4-D can be adequately removed from the surface of plastic mulch with irrigation, whereas a single irrigation event was not sufficient to remove dicamba.
The loss of methyl bromide led vegetable growers to rely more heavily on herbicides to control weeds. Although herbicides can be effective, limited options in vegetable production challenge growers. Identifying new, effective tools to be applied over plastic mulch before planting, for improved weed control with minimal crop injury, would be beneficial. The objective of these experiments was to evaluate the persistence of preplant applications of glyphosate (1,125 or 2,250 g ae ha−1) plus 2,4-D (1,065 or 2,130 g ae ha−1) or dicamba (560 g ae ha−1) over plastic mulch, using analytical techniques and subsequent yellow squash and watermelon response. Glyphosate and 2,4-D were not analytically detected at damaging concentrations on plastic mulch when at least 3.5 cm of rainfall was received after application and before planting. In addition, bioassay results showing less than 10% visual injury for either squash and watermelon, with no growth or yield suppression observed, supported analytical results. In contrast, dicamba concentrations on plastic mulch, regardless of rainfall amount or time between application and planting, remained at damaging levels. Squash yields were reduced by dicamba applied 1 to 30 d before planting, whereas watermelon was more resilient. 2,4-D plus glyphosate applied preplant over plastic mulch can provide an additional herbicide option for vegetable growers. More research is needed to understand the impact of residual activity of 2,4-D when transplants land directly in holes in plastic mulch at the time of application. The relationship of dicamba with plastic mulch is complex, because the herbicide cannot be easily removed by rainfall. Thus, dicamba should not be included in a weed management system in plasticulture vegetable production.
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