herbicide

By Caroline Schneider, University of Wisconsin Madision

Organic farmers are in a tough spot when it comes to controlling weeds. Since conventional herbicides aren’t an option, many choose to use tillage — mechanically turning over the soil to upend weeds. However, tillage can take a toll on soil health and cause run-off. Increasingly, organic farmers are seeking better ways to control weeds while preserving soil health.

Dr. David W. Staniforth (1919-1984) was a pioneer in the field of weed science. His research efforts helped to shape the effective weed control systems used by farmers today. His experience spanned the development of modern herbicide technology, beginning with work on the mode of action of 2,4-D and continuing through refinements in weed control systems including the development of weed control for conservation tillage.

Mike Owen grew up in Ames. His dad was a faculty member for the Atomic Energy Commission during the “Little Ankeny Project.”

“I grew up one house down from David Staniforth,” says Owen. “I started working on his crew in high school.”

After high school, he became a botany major at Iowa State. In 1970 he left Iowa State for a wrestling scholarship at another university. Due to an injury he gave up the scholarship and was drafted for the Vietnam War in 1971. Owen did a pre-induction physical and was accepted into the Army. He returned to Iowa State Spring Semester of 1971 and regained his student deferment.

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