Breaking Down Resistance

A select group of agricultural advisers are leading the charge against resistance across the U.S.
Data Management Program Is a Perfect Fit
Left to right: Joel Spring, Clint Einspahr, Jeremy Kichler, Paul Barchenger, Steve Muhlenbruch and Tim Hambrick in a greenhouse at the Syngenta Vero Beach Research Center in Florida.
Ask most members of the Resistance Fighter® of the Year Leadership Program what they consider the most rewarding part of their role, and each will likely give a similar response. They'll pause for a moment, seem a little surprised to be asked a question with such an obvious answer, and then reply, "Seeing my growers have a successful harvest."

The members of this exclusive program are a diverse group. That diversity and the breadth of experience behind it are the program's cornerstones. But a shared desire for farmland to reach its maximum potential binds the members together and places them in an elite category of agricultural advisers, who are helping growers develop local solutions to one of their most difficult challenges.

"Over the last 10 years, we've seen an increase in resistance to not only weeds, but to insects and diseases as well," says Les Glasgow, Ph.D., technical product lead for herbicides at Syngenta. "If we do not respond proactively to this serious threat, we will see a rise in management costs coupled with a reduction in productivity and profitability."

Exceptional Leaders

Syngenta founded the Resistance Fighter of the Year Leadership Program in 2009 to recognize third-party agricultural advisers for their foresight about the threat herbicide resistance poses to agriculture and their drive to implement proactive techniques to manage that threat. Since then, the program has expanded and is now also open to advisers fighting resistance in diseases,

"The issues the other guys are facing further south in Tennessee, Kansas and Missouri are the things that we are going to be seeing in our area [central Iowa] in the next five to 10 years."

Joel Spring
insects and nematodes. The program currently consists of county extension agents, sales agronomists and other agricultural advisers who have made significant contributions to managing resistance in their areas.

"The Resistance Fighter of the Year Leadership Program honors exceptionally active advisers who help growers in the fight against resistance," says David Laird, head of product biology at Syngenta. "It serves as a conduit for knowledge-sharing among members and the agricultural community."

By connecting real-world experts who are working on the frontlines of resistance, the program has become a network of practical knowledge and seasoned experience. Members consult with one another about resistance-management techniques to learn what has worked and what has failed in various geographies. And because the program contains members from Minnesota to Georgia, the odds are good that at least one of the members has insights about a specific resistance issue from personal experience.

"The issues the other guys are facing further south in Tennessee, Kansas and Missouri are the things that we are going to be seeing in our area in the next five to 10 years," says Joel Spring, a 2013 Resistance Fighter of the Year and crop specialist with AgriLand Farm Services in Centerville, Iowa. "Having a heads-up on the tools they use to fight those battles helps me formulate a game plan for my producers before those problems hit their fields."

The Benefits of Membership

Through the Resistance Fighter of the Year Leadership Program, Syngenta is able to provide members with resources and opportunities that otherwise may not be available to them. Members receive chances to interact with resistance experts from around the world and get a firsthand look at some of the latest Syngenta resistance-related research. They have a broader platform from which to share their own knowledge with the media and growers through Resistance Roundtable discussions and are invited to events, including national farm trade shows, media events and research tours.

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"This program is a great way to strengthen your leadership skills and get your name out in the industry," says Clint Einspahr, a 2011 Resistance Fighter of the Year and assistant sales agronomy leader with Cargill, Inc., in Arapahoe, Nebraska. "You get to meet interesting people, expand your knowledge and share what you've learned over the years with others."

This past January, several Resistance Fighters visited the Syngenta Vero Beach Research Center in Florida to tour the facility and get an idea of what new technologies Syngenta may bring to market in the future. During the tour, they interacted with Syngenta researchers, the media and each other. They saw presentations on weed, disease and insect resistance and then visited various laboratories, greenhouses and field trials.

"While these events are beneficial of their own accord, it is the chance for the Resistance Fighters to take part in them together that allows each member to truly broaden their perspective," Laird says. Spring was one of the Resistance Fighters in attendance. "This program has allowed me to meet a lot of great people and see what's happening in the rest of the country," says Spring. "I like having the knowledge to go out and say to my growers, 'This is what we need to do because this is what is already working in other parts of the country.'" As an afterthought, Spring smiles and adds, "It's also nice to spend a little time down at the Florida beaches during the cold Iowa winter."

Becoming a Resistance Fighter

If you are interested in becoming a member of the Resistance Fighter of the Year Leadership Program or know an agricultural adviser who deserves to be honored for his or her efforts to manage resistance issues, visit the Resistance Fighter website's application page.