Over the years, no-tillers have seen the benefit of providing effective season-long weed control and its impact on profits.

That’s why you should be concerned about three critical discussions taking place in Washington, D.C., that could have a major impact on the future of weed control in your no-tilled fields.

1. The Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed spray drift policy could have a serious impact on all pesticide applications. Whether you handle the spraying yourself or rely on a custom applicator, EPA’s desire to add language to all pesticide labels that would prohibit pesticide applications that result in spray drift will have a major impact. Yes, you read it right — EPA wants zero tolerance.

The Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), allows a level of spray drift that does not cause an unreasonable adverse effect on human health or the environment. But noticeably absent from the new proposal is the word “unreasonable.”

Ag groups say the current law works well and doesn’t need to be rewritten. While it’s impractical to ban all chemical drift, new drift-reduction technologies and extensive applicator education will go a long way toward tackling concerns over pesticide drift.

2. We’ve already been through this a number of times, but President Obama’s administration has the EPA taking another look at the impact of atrazine on the environment.

Since its development in 1958, atrazine — both alone and in tankmixes — has become the most widely used corn herbicide in North America. It’s estimated the herbicide provides an economic advantage of $35 per acre, especially with no-till programs.

If the results are the same as in the 1994 and 2006 lengthy scientific reviews, the herbicide will again get a clean bill of health. But only after the government and suppliers spend millions defending the herbicide — hopefully on the basis of good scientific research rather than political agendas. (See page 8 for more details.)

3. The third weed-control battle being fought in Washington deals with federal funding of weed and herbicide research. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has moved to totally eliminate funding for weed science work at the university and federal agency level.

If this occurs, all basic weed research and new discoveries will be in the hands of pesticide suppliers, who already provide the majority of funds to develop new weed-control techniques and products.

The Weed Science Society of America has issued a strong appeal to keep the funding. With well over half of all pest-related losses still attributed to weeds, they feel abandoning the government’s commitment to weed science is a potent recipe for national crisis.

Time For Concern

In all three of these areas, reason will hopefully prevail. But there’s no better time to let local, state and federal government officials know where you stand. Otherwise, you may find controlling weeds much tougher and more expensive.