Sustainable Ag Pioneers Learn Value of Modern Herbicides

Dick and Sharon Thompson of Boone, Iowa are pioneering giants of the sustainable agriculture research agenda in the U.S. They helped found Practical Farmers of Iowa. Since 1986, the Thompsons have conducted on-farm research trials and have produced an annual report. The Thompson farm is not organic; however, they generally do not use herbicides, preferring to use a rotary hoe to destroy weeds. In most years, the mechanical control works well, but then came the very rainy 2008 growing season…

“2008 was not a good year for soybeans because of weather, rain and more rain. This was the first year that we lost money on a soybean field. We could not rotary hoe. The beans were good size when we cultivated the first time (June 24). The cultivator threw soil in and around the bean plants, looked like an excellent job. It rained 1.25 inches two days later on June 26 starting all the weed seed we pushed into the row. We had grass in the row, which is not the norm, along with broadleaf weeds. … The field was a mess. The rope wicks attached [to] our old hyboy filled with round up [herbicide] went up and back on the same rows to kill the weeds so that our small combine could harvest the field. The rope wick killed the weeds and the combine was able to handle the dead weeds. The yield was 37 bushel per acre, 7 bushel below county average of 44 and we lost $49 per acre. The field was sprayed for aphids adding more expense.”

“We could not manage weeds in the end rows of corn and soybean fields without herbicides.”

Authors: Dick and Sharon Thompson
Publication: Thompson Agriculture Alternatives 2009 Report
Available at:

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