Holbert: Summer weed work has changed for the better

It wasn’t that long ago that to have a field be weed free, it required a lot more labor than it does today.

Erin Holbert.

The best part about summer on the farm is when you finally get a chance to take a step back and relax a little bit. Everything’s planted (for the most part), and everyone’s waiting for the best time of the year, harvest, to get here. It’s entirely in Mother Nature’s plans if the crops this year will bust the bins or make for a tight Christmas budget. Except for one thing – weeds.

For us, most of the summer is not only spent spraying weeds with the full-sized sprayer, the sprayer on the back of the four-wheeler, and the backpack sprayers but actually walking bean fields cutting out herbicide resistant weeds with weed hooks. This combo delivers clean fields and truly spectacular tan lines. Spending this much time walking fields also gives you plenty of time to think, and if I’m being honest, I spend a lot of that time thinking about how grateful I am for modern technology and how far the agriculture industry has come.

It wasn’t that long ago that to have a field be weed free, it required a lot more labor than it does today. With the technology today, it’s possible for most people to never have to step foot in a field with a weed hook. There’s a picture of my dad with me as a toddler sitting on his lap with him reading a farming magazine, and on the cover was a headline pronouncing the new Roundup system the best thing to happen to agriculture in decades. And honestly? It was.

That herbicide system, the chemicals and genetics that came after that, and the advances in equipment to apply the programs have made an incredible impact on the agriculture industry. They’ve made our jobs a little bit easier and have given farmers the ability to produce a better crop.

However, spending that much time walking bean fields cutting out herbicide resistant weeds and the weeds that popped up later in the season has given me an appreciation for the basics. Technology doesn’t always work the way it should, and when that happens, it’s always the basics that come to the rescue.


My dad used to have us walking beans to cut out volunteer corn because in his words “kids were cheaper than chemical” (it’s funny how that chemical suddenly became affordable when all of his kids were off at college and he was left to walk fields by himself), and now we’re more worried about keeping waterhemp out of the fields.

When we were cutting out corn it was mainly because it just didn’t look good (what farmer doesn’t like to have a spotless field?), but we have to cut out waterhemp because it’s an incredibly aggressive weed that’s unfortunately resistant to most herbicides available. As always, the basics swoop in to save the day.

Everyone likes to talk about new technologies and all the improvements that are coming in the future, and it truly is an amazing accomplishment how far they’ve come, but we can’t forget that sometimes the simplest and most effective answer lies in the basics.

Related Topics: AGRICULTURE
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