FIGHTING HERBICIDE-RESISTANT WEEDS
Weeds are tenacious. They learn how to resist herbicides that are designed to kill them in as little as 5 or 6 growing seasons. When the weed-killing herbicides become ineffective and weeds run rampant, choking out crops, farmers need to change. But change is hard.
When a global seed company shared the scientific data that herbicide-resistant weeds were coming to Midwestern farmlands of the United States, most of the farmers disregarded the message. "That's not a problem on my farm," they'd say. "My herbicides are working fine." (Denial)
Through a series of interviews, conducted with support from my partners at Encouragetech, with growers, company agronomists field sales reps and dealers, the problem was diagnosed as “acceptance of the issue” and not “awareness of the issue.”
It was clear the growers understood the issues but because it was not impinging on their yields, the need to act was an abstract idea.
A pilot workshop was designed to introduce the data and issues in a vivid way to groups of 7-10 growers at a time. The growers were split into two groups so they can focus on a single issue in each group. Group A was asked to articulate their vision for their farm in 5 years. Group B was asked to take the data from agronomists and forecast how long it will take before the resistant weeds to overrun their fields. Then they presented to each other.
After the discussion, the growers sat down with agronomists to plan their crops on a field by field basis for the following growing season.
By presenting their findings to each other, they owned the solution (the IKEA effect) and because they’re sharing it in small groups of neighbor growers, they have a sense of pride in their commitment (social pressure) to execute the plan to fend off the resistant weeds.
At this writing, the pilot phase has not yet concluded. Results will be measured against fields implementing their plans and fields not implementing plans.