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Environment

Getting Into the Weeds

Collide-a-ScapeBy Keith KloorJuly 16, 2013 10:02 AM

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Well, this is fun. Carl Zimmer has a piece on the biology of weeds in the New York Times. One of my go-to sources in this field tweeted his reaction:

Perhaps the best (non-sensationalized) article about herbicide resistant weeds I've read: http://t.co/l2RQZiVPd3 by @carlzimmer — Andrew Kniss (@WyoWeeds) July 15, 2013

I say this is fun because Tom Laskawy of Grist has also just written about what he calls "superweeds." Laskawy's piece relies heavily on Food and Water Watch, an advocacy group. As you might expect, he views the issue of herbicide resistant weeds through a particular lens. Zimmer's NYT article, in addition to providing excellent context on an age-0ld agricultural problem, surveys the latest research findings on proliferating weeds. And he elicits expert perspective from numerous reputable scientists. Read both the Grist and NYTpieces back to back. Same topic, two very different approaches. One is obviously skewed to a pre-formed narrative. The other is notable for its dispassionate tone and lucid explanatory reportage. UPDATE: Andrew Kniss has a short post on the merits of Zimmer's article. Kniss points out what is often lost in the discussion on weeds (though not in Zimmer's piece):

they [weeds] will evolve to ANY selection pressure we apply repeatedly. If you mow your lawn, you’ll select for low-growing weeds. If you till the soil annually in the early spring, you’ll select for weeds that emerge later in the year. And yes, if you apply the same herbicides over time, you’ll select for weeds resistant to herbicides. It’s evolution, and it is rather common in weed science.

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