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Fighting Weed Resistance in the Mid-South

Friday, April 1, 2011 - Cleveland, MS - Excerpt from Cotton Grower Magazine, May 2011

In Cleveland, MS, Keith Baioni develops farm-specific plans to help cotton producers fight glyphosate-resistant weeds.

As most growers in the Southeast and Mid-South are now aware, the fight against glyphosate-resistance is all-encompassing. Seemingly every year, a new species of weed pest will develop tolerance or resistance to existing, effective technologies. Often, these developments turn up in surprising locations.

Luckily for growers, though, assistance can come from surprising places as well. In addition to Extension weed experts and experienced crop consultants, thousands of others across the Cotton Belt have enlisted themselves in the fight against weed resistance.

In Cleveland, MS, Keith Baioni has dedicated himself to the cause. From his position as business manager of crop protection products at Jimmy Sanders, Inc., Baioni has made it his mission to keep his company’s staff and local growers proactive in the war on weeds. His efforts couldn’t have a come at a more dire time for farmers in the area.

In recent years six weed pests have been confirmed to have glyphosate resistance in the state of Mississippi. Among them, the most troublesome have been Italian ryegrass, marestail and Palmer amaranth.

Like their neighbors in West Tennessee and the Arkansas Delta, Mississippi growers have struggled with an onslaught of resistance. Baioni says that though the problem in Mississippi grows yearly, many still underestimate how serious the issue has become.

“Our problem is just as bad as it is in Arkansas and Tennessee. But the perception is not there at the level it is in those markets,” says Baioni.

To help change that perception, Baioni developed the Fall Applied Resistance Management Now (F.A.R.M.’N.) platform. The idea, he says, is to educate the staff at Jimmy Sanders and growers in the Delta region. The message is starting to set in, out of necessity.

“They are becoming more and more receptive. I would say they’re as receptive as they’ve ever been right now,” says Baioni. “But you still have the naysayers out there. There’s a lot of apathy in the farming community – people who say ‘if I don’t have a problem right now, then it’s not my problem.’

“But the weeds have begun to make their presence known because they’re becoming more distributed across the Delta area, to the point where more growers have a problem now than there are those who don’t, whether they believe it or not.”

Year-Round Solutions
Baioni says the only problem with the F.A.R.M.’N. platform is that it may give the impression that it is restricted to one season. In fact, the program is designed not only to kick off management in the fall, but also to maintain activity throughout the year.

“It’s a year-round planning process. This is a management program that needs to have a lot of attention paid to it. Not only when there is crop in the field, but prior to that crop and after it is harvested,” says Baioni. The year-long program keeps with Jimmy Sanders Inc.’s slogan, which is ‘Before Seed and Beyond Harvest.’

Through F.A.R.M.’N., Baioni and his coworkers create farm-specific management programs for growers in their area. They set their sights on keeping resistance out of area fields, while keeping a grower’s economic interests in mind.

Baioni says he often recommends Valor to cotton growers who want to get a jump on glyphosate-resistant marestail during the fall. He also relies on products such as Gramoxone Inteon for burndown, as well as a host of residual herbicides for early post-emergence. Again, he stresses, each farm requires a specific game plan that he and other Jimmy Sanders representatives help to create through the F.A.R.M.’N. program.

Area growers aren’t the only ones who’ve taken notice of Baioni’s efforts. Earlier this year, Syngenta named Baioni the 2010 Resistance Fighter of the Year in the South. He is one of only two individuals to win the award nationally.

“Keith is making a difference in his area, and Syngenta is pleased to recognize his work,” says Chuck Foresman, manager of weed resistance strategies, Syngenta. “(Baioni) clearly earned the title of 2010 Resistance Fighter of the Year.”

All awards and recognition aside, Baioni says his true reward is seeing farmers succeed.

“I educate our field sales group about Sanders’ true value proposition, which is year-round, comprehensive crop management solutions,” says Baioni. “Selling chemicals is one thing. Forming a true partnership with a grower and supplying peace of mind is so much more rewarding, and that’s what I constantly reinforce in my messages to our team members in the field.”