Each of these groups has different incentives. It is important to figure out whether their incentives for resistance management are compatible and what the economic tradeoff is for each group. We know little about the incentives or adoption levels of weed management consultants, custom chemical applicators, custom harvest and other custom operations, and small-scale producers. The susceptibility of weeds to herbicides is a weakest link public good, one whose provision requires the effort and compliance by those least able and with the least incentives to provide it. Smaller-scale producers may have more off-farm responsibilities and may not have the capacity to manage resistance. This is unknown because most of the surveys are based on producers farming more than 250 acres. Growers with less than 250 acres of a crop are 30 percent of corn growers, 23 percent of cotton growers, and 32 percent of soybean growers. That accounts for 15 percent of corn acres, 6 percent of cotton acres, and 18 percent of soybean acres. It is a nontrivial population that we do not know much about.
Another concern is that much of our data on resistance management is quickly becoming dated. There was a relatively large amount of data collected in 2005-2007. However, much has happened regarding resistance problems and resistance awareness since then. We do not know if people are doing anything differently. It would be good to do more work with the USDA’s Agricultural Resources Management Survey to test hypotheses about factors encouraging or discouraging adoption, including grower attributes.
The old paradigm is a product-based solution, in which growers were seen as customers who bought products off the shelf. Weed management is simplified as much as possible. The idea is that new products will always solve old problems, and the goal is to keep new products coming down the pipeline. The new paradigm emphasizes systems and science and will rely on people being more engaged as sophisticated crop managers. Growers in this paradigm are active participants who will not only adopt new systems but also educate technology developers. It involves more knowledge about the overall agricultural supply chain, especially the structure, conduct, and performance of input industries.
There is going to be a challenge related to knowledge sharing. If we have a limited number of mechanisms of action and there are not going to be new ones, then we are going to have to substitute information and knowledge for chemical compounds. In order to obtain that information, we need grower participation and input. But growers will be less likely to provide information if they perceive that the result will be more regulatory actions. They need to see a benefit to participating.