It might not seem “sociology” — the study of groups of people — would have anything to do with fighting herbicide resistance. But Katie Dentzman has a different idea.
As a sociologist at the University of Idaho studying the ag community’s response to herbicide resistance, one of her goals is to change how people think about the importance of social groups to weed management.
In other words, she wrote in a recent blog, advanced in weed science, chemistry and biology mean little “if the behaviors of farmers, Extension educators, chemical manufacturers and other actors do not change. Basically, if only a few farmers are implementing control measures, their efforts are likely to be negatively impacted by those around them who aren’t doing their part.”
Dentzman says she’s talked to numerous farmers who would love to manage their weeds differently but are constrained by economics, farm size, landowners, available chemistries, and more. Dentzman wants to draw these growers into the field without ignoring or dismissing those who are already engaging in advanced integrated weed management. She plans to test the concept of community-based management.
“This concept rests on the idea of self-regulation, where communities come together to draw up their own management plans, enforcement measures, and regulations,” she writes, noting such an approach has advantages because it can be adaptable to different areas where there are differences in resistance intensity, weed species, climate, dominant crop type and other factors.
This could also avoid government-mandated regulations by allowing local stakeholders to decide on the best and most reasonable management practices. Enforcement might be a difficult issue. These groups would somehow have to come up with incentives for adopting different practices, or sanctions for those who don’t.
Dentzman says the Arkansas Zero Tolerance Program shows this approach can be highly effective and more acceptable to farmers than other types of interventions. She’d like to start a regional conversation about community management, hearing from those who agree or don’t agree with her. Do you have neighbors who aren’t managing herbicide resistance well? What are the chances you could get a “sit down” with them to try new ideas?
It might not seem likely, but you never know.