Palmer Amaranth is a super-weed currently located in five Iowa counties that can grow two-three inches a day, reach a height of seven feet, and produce up to a million seeds per plant. This dangerous weed can also carry multiple herbicide resistances and devastated southern agriculture in the 1990’s. Even a moderately infested field can lead to 2/3 yield losses for corn and soybeans.
The Palmer Project began in 2015 as part of the Bryan Summer Research Program in Mathematics at Simpson College. This project started with the goal of creating a mathematical model to simulate the spread of super-weed Palmer Amaranth across Iowa, but the scope of the project expanded greatly as soon as it began. Now, with sponsorship from ADM and BASF, the Palmer Project is modeling the spread of Palmer amaranth across the greater Midwest, collecting qualitative interviews from farmers, and working on an awareness campaign to create better weed management in the age of herbicide resistance.
What makes the Palmer Project different from most agricultural research groups is its interdisciplinary approach. The team, led by Dr. Clint Meyer and Dr. John Pauley, professors of environmental science and philosophy respectively, brings together students with nine different majors, from neuroscience to political science. The team blends both quantitative and qualitative methods together to better understand the story of herbicide use and resistance in the U.S. Corn Belt. The one-of-a-kind mathematical model visually depicts the possibilities facing Midwestern agriculture and opens the door for insightful conversations with local stakeholders. These conversations help the team adapt the model to be more accurate and expose further areas that influence the problem. The quantitative and qualitative methods continuously inform the other and work together to maximize the research’s impact.
The Palmer Amaranth Think Tank continues to flourish. We finished the summer by doing more work on the math modeling and working on our qualitative research.
Our qualitative research group, which really involved the whole team, completed nine interviews, including one with a farmer in Kansas. These interviews were analyzed through the fall and the most important insights from farmers were turned into a White Paper for BASF, who sponsored the research.
The math modeling continued into the fall. The team worked on the new discovery of Palmer seed in CRP seed, which has created a serious issue in Iowa. The work continues to get the spread of Palmer through CRP into the model. The team is also working on road dust and its effects on Palmer and other invasive species; there is mounting evidence that road dust enhances herbicide resistance.
The interviews also helped two members of our team, Maggie Long and Zoe Muehleip, develop papers
Maggie Long – Simpson College
Herbicide Resistant Weeds and ‘The Wicked Problem’
Zoe Muehleip – Simpson College
Impediments to Progress within the Agricultural Paradigm
All of our team members presented their research at the North Central Weed Society Annual Conference in Des Moines in December. The titles of the presentations are as follows.
MODELING THE SPREAD OF THE PALMER AMARANTH ACROSS IOWA AND THE MIDWEST CORNBELT STATES. Tre B. Loge*, Park Mikels, Leslie Decker, Andrea Van Wyk, Maggie E. Long; Simpson College, Indianola, IA (198)
A SIMULATION TO PREDICT THE SPREAD OF ROAD DUST IN A CROP FIELD AND ITS POTENTIAL EFFECTS ON PALMER AMARANTH. Sydney Rissler, Teig Loge*; Simpson College, Ankeny, IA. Simpson College, Indianola, IA. (73)
DOES ROAD DUST HAVE THE POTENTIAL IMPACT CHEMICAL CONTROL TO WATERHEMP (Amaranthus Tuberculatus)? Kayla Price* Clint K. Meyer, Zoe G. Muehleip, Maggie E. Long, Rick Spellergerg; Simpson College, Indianola, IA. (86)
HOW ATTITUDES ABOUT COMMUNITY CAN CONTRIBUTE TO HERBICIDE RESISTANT PALMER AMARANTH. John A. Pauley*, Maggie E. Long, Zoe G. Muehleip; Simpson College, Indianola, IA (132)
The biggest news for the team this fall is additional funding from BASF and ADM and a large grant from The Roy J. Carver Charitable Trust. The Carver Trust grant, along with funding from BASF and ADM allows our team to continue the research on Palmer. Brady Spangenberg, Simpson Class of 2004, and Analytics expert at BASF will be joining the research team this May as a “Visiting Scholar.” Dr. Spangenberg, who received his Ph.D from Purdue University in Comparative Literature, will be working with Professor Pauley and Professor Meyer on the math modeling and the qualitative research.
The Carver Grant has earmarked funds for a large conference on Palmer amaranth.
Please view our flier on Collaborative Approaches to Solving the Palmer Amaranth Problem
For more information on the project, please contact Dr. Clint Meyer (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Dr. John Pauley (email@example.com). You can also follow us on Twitter, @AmaranthArmy.