Tag Archives: plants

Less weeding, more feeding

Michael Flessner

Assistant Professor of Plant Pathology, Physiology, and Weed Science Michael Flessner is helping Virginia farmers by investigating how to control weeds before they become a problem at harvest.

Soybeans are a major crop in both Virginia and North Carolina, but money spent on weed control is choking out about $40 million of profits per year for farmers in each state.
A collaborative grant between Virginia Tech and North Carolina State University seeks to eradicate weeds such as Italian ryegrass, wild radish, common ragweed, and Palmer amaranth that are common to both states. The grant money is being focused on environmentally friendly ways to control weeds that won’t contribute to herbicide resistance.

“Herbicide resistance prevalent in our region is just shy of doubling the weed control costs of production,” said Michael Flessner, assistant professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science and Extension specialist. “This is a way to not only combat the weeds, but to also keep the problem from becoming worse,” said Flessner.

Flessner estimates it costs farmers in the region an additional $60 to $100 per acre to hand-pull the weed Palmer amaranth in infested fields.

He is working in conjunction with Wes Everman, assistant professor of crop science at North Carolina State University, to research the effects of destroying the seed by crushing it at harvest or by carrying away the postharvest residue, thereby taking the seeds out of the cropping system before they become a problem in the field.

Research at the University of Arkansas is already showing promise using these methodologies. One study reduced the time required to hand-pull weeds from 205 man-hours to six man-hours over a period of just two years.

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Extension recruited in the fight against boxwood blight

Boxwood researchBoxwoods are the mainstays of landscapes in many historical sites across the commonwealth as well as an important nursery crop. The annual wholesale market value for boxwood nursery production is $103 million.

However, growers and researchers are concerned that boxwood blight could potentially decimate English and American boxwood populations along the East Coast if precautions to curb the spread of the disease are not followed.

Boxwood blight is caused by a fungal pathogen that renders the plant’s leaves brown and dry. The fungus can rapidly defoliate boxwood plants, making the plants unsuitable for commercial sale, leading to plant death, and wiping out ornamental landscapes. The disease spreads primarily via plant materials and soil from infected plants. The pathogen produces sticky spores that attach to plant containers, tools, vehicles, and shoes and clothing.

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