Kill seeds before they become hard-to-kill weeds. That plan will be studied by Kevin Bradley with help from Missouri farmers.
The University of Missouri Extension weed specialist plans research on crushing seeds before they hit the ground. That stops weeds competing with crops next season. Over time, that depletes soil seed banks.
The task is big. Some herbicide-resistant weeds grow several hundred thousand seeds or more per plant.
At the annual Pest Management Day, July 9 at MU Bradford Research Center near Columbia, Bradley asked soybean farmers to volunteer to help.
Soon to arrive at the MU research farm is a Case IH combine with an attached “seed terminator.” The mill grinds seeds to dust. Tests in Australia with a similar system showed more than 90 percent of weed seed was not viable after exiting the terminator.
Bradley wants to test his idea and machine on weed-infested farm fields in Missouri. He’s looking for soybean fields of 50 to 80 acres, preferably no more than 100 miles from Columbia.
Bradley has spent his research career at MU since 2003 studying all kinds of weed controls, including chemicals. But with repeated use of each new herbicide, farmers select more resistant weeds.
If only a few weeds escape control each year, those survivors produce thousands of seeds that farmers contend with in future years.
Bradley recently shifted gears in his research to look for alternative controls for problem weed species.
In addition to the seed terminator machine, Bradley evaluated the impact of windrow burning. Chaff and weed seed left behind the combine is windrowed and burned. The fire kills weed seeds.
Bradley’s team conducts research on weed management at the Bradford Research Center as well as other MU research farms around the state.
Farmers wanting to cooperate can contact Bradley through their regional MU Extension agronomist. There is an MU Extension office in every county.
Pest Management Day visitors riding bleacher wagons see only a small part of that work. After lunch, visitors use a guidebook to find other research. Bradley’s crew planted plot signs to help visitors.
Other MU research farm field days: Aug. 6 at Greenley Research Center in Novelty; Aug. 27 (morning), Graves-Chapple Research Center, Rock Port; and Aug. 27 (evening), Hundley-Whaley Center, Albany.