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March 7, 2024 66 mins

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What's up Plant People?! I have a great one for you today with one of my former professors and current colleagues, Dr. Peter Dotray. We had a great conversation about life as a professor and academic, what's changed over the years, how do we define a "weed," what role do they play in agriculture, and how we can go about controlling them. Dr. Dotray is a kind, empathetic educator who has a wealth of experience and knowledge about agriculture and how we can approach some of our future challenges with growing good plants so we can feed and clothe the world!

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Planthropology is written, hosted, and produced by Vikram Baliga. Our theme song is "If You Want to Love Me, Babe, by the talented and award-winning composer, Nick Scout.

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
What is up?
Plant people it's time oncemore for the Plant Propology
Podcast, the show where we diveinto the lives and careers of
some very cool plant people tofigure out why they do what they
do and what keeps them comingback for more.
I'm Vikram Bolliga, your hostand your humble guide in this
journey through the sciences and, as always, my dear friends, I
am so excited to be with youtoday.
Y'all, I'm really excited abouttoday's episode.

My guest was actually an oldprofessor of mine from back in
the day when I did my masters,and I don't know if I took any
classes with him when I did myPhD, but I have known this man
for a long time and he's alwaysbeen one of my very favorite
So Dr Peter Doutre is aprofessor of weed science, which
is maybe not what you'rethinking.

He actually studies weedcontrol and pest control in
agricultural settings, and hestudies how to better control
the plants that grow out ofplace and compete with the crops
that we're trying to grow forfood or fiber or anything else,
which makes a better system thatoverall is healthier and we can

produce more plants with lessinputs.
So Dr Doutre and I talked abouteverything from that what is it
like to control weeds to?
How has academia and teachingchanged over the long years of
his career?
We talked about differences inthe classroom and what it's like
to teach from a blackboard or achalkboard versus on the
We talked about the future ofagriculture and so many other

Dr Doutre is a kind, empatheticeducator and I've always had a
ton of respect for him and I'velearned so much from him over
the years.
So this was a fun conversation.
We covered a lot of ground, butwe really talked about the
world of teaching, the world ofagriculture and the world of
weed control, so I think you'llreally enjoy this one.
So, without any further ado,here is episode 103 of the

Plantherpology podcast PlantsOut of Place, chalkboards and
Controlling Weeds with Dr PeterDoutre.
All right, well, I am soexcited to get to talk to you
You know it's interesting.

I've been doing this podcastfor a while and I think I've
talked to like my colleagueshere the least out of everyone,
so it's fun to get to have youon.

Speaker 2 (02:21):
I appreciate this opportunity.

Speaker 1 (02:22):
And why don't you introduce yourself a little bit?
Tell us where you're from, whatyou studied, what you like to
do as a kid, whatever you thinkis interesting.

Speaker 2 (02:30):
All right, you want the long version or the short
version, whichever, the mediumversion.

Speaker 1 (02:35):
The medium version.

Speaker 2 (02:37):
Okay, so, peter Doutre, I'm a professor here at
Tech and I also hold a jointappointment with Texas A&M
AgriLife Research and ExtensionService.
I've been in my role since 1993.
Okay, prior to 1993, I grew upin South Minneapolis, so I'm

actually a city.
Kid had a love of the outdoors.
For my parents and my mom'sside of the family they were
So I would spend my summertimeon the farm picking rocks first,
walking sugar beet fields,detasteling corn, and then for

seven summers I worked for GreenGiant.
So it was kind of fun wherewhen I would come back from the
summertime my city friends wouldcall me a country bumpkin, but
yet when I was out in thecountry they would call me a
city slicker.
So it was almost like I neverfit in where I was.
But again, love of the outdoors, love of the farm, didn't grow

up on a farm.
My grandfather told me that ifI ever wanted to farm I needed
to go to school and get aneducation, because banks would
unlikely loan me money unless Ihad an education.
So that was my grandpa's way of, you know, suggesting I should
pursue a further education.

And I did, and I quicklylearned that I did not want to
farm, but I want to work withfarmers and I feel like that's
still what I'm doing today.

Speaker 1 (04:16):
So where did you do yourschooling, was it?

Speaker 2 (04:20):
did you stay close to Minneapolis or so the first
school right out of high schoolwas a state school in Southwest
Minnesota and I learned thatfolks there like to have fun
first and maybe study a littlebit on the side.
So I lasted one semester, okay,and then I transferred back to

In the Twin Cities they haveactually Twin campuses.
The agricultural campus for theUniversity of Minnesota is in
St Paul and yeah started.
There was working 32 hours aweek at a gas station Wow, and
my grades showed.
And then I found anannouncement looking.

They were looking for a studentworker in a weed control in
soybeans project.
The man in charge was Dr BobAnderson, who very influential
person in my life and wasworking in his program and of
course, took some courses inweed science and plant breeding.
And pretty much at that pointit was you made a decision in

agronomy you were gonna be aplant breeder or you could study
weed science, and the professorin weed science was far better
than the professor in plantbreeding, vikram.

Speaker 1 (05:36):
These are all true story no, there you go.

Speaker 2 (05:39):
And I decided you know, working with graduate
students as an undergraduate.
I thought that's what I wannado.
I wanna do what those studentsare doing.
So I went to the majorprofessor, dr Don Wise, and I
said I wanna be a graduatestudent in your program.
And he said oh good, what'syour GPA?
And I said, well, I just got itabove a three.
And he looked at me and he saidwhy would I take a guy like you

You know you're not seriousenough.
So he didn't take me.
He was helpful in sending me toWashington State University
where I pursued my master's andthen the beauty was did pretty
well there.
My Minnesota advisor came andbrought me back, so finished my

graduate career back at theUniversity of Minnesota,
finished my PhD there and thenhad been in Lubbock, texas, ever
So there's kind of a longanswer.
Maybe not so long but, that waskind of my path until I came

Speaker 1 (06:34):
No, that's interesting.
So this was your first, I guess, like academic job here at Tech

Speaker 2 (06:39):
It was interviewed for a few industry groups,
probably halfway, two thirds ofthe way through my PhD, just to
kind of get some interviewingexperience.
I think I learned I wanted towork in academia, had
opportunities at the very end,one at the University of
Nebraska at one of theirresearch and extension centers,

and then this opportunity herewhich allowed me to teach and
then do research and extension.
Dr Dick Ald was one of thefolks that brought me to Lubbock
and that's another story.
If I can digress for a minute,I think this is important for
some folks to know.
So the position here was open.
I applied and I did not makethe shortlist.

So they brought in three otherfolks and I knew two of them,
still know two of them quitewell.
The person that was offered theposition her and I went to
school in the Pacific Northwestand she turned it down.
So they went back into the pooland tried to find somebody who
was most similar to her and thatwas me.

So maybe I was kind of thenumber four person for this job.
The first three interviewed,they tried to get the one and
they went back in and brought mein and then pretty quickly an
offer was made and here I stillam.

Speaker 1 (08:03):
Well, that's cool.
I mean, it's cool that you'vegotten to spend your entire
career in one place, because Ifeel like that's not super
common in academia, at least notanymore.

Speaker 2 (08:15):
I think you're right and I guess my analogy there.
I think of some of my sportsidols and some of them played
for one team all of their career.
I feel like these days that'spretty rare.
Probably the same thing withyounger professionals coming out
They're gonna move around alittle bit more.
I've enjoyed my position fromthe beginning.

I felt very fortunate andopportunity to do everything
that I like to do to teach, todo research, to have an outreach
extension program.
They all kind of feed off of, Ithink, each other.
They all provide newopportunities to be better in
those other areas.
I also feel like usually by thetime the semester's over, I'm

not only are the students readyto go, but I'm ready to go as
well, and then into some fieldresearch, and then by the end of
summer I'm anxious to get backinto the classroom.
So I do feel fortunate that Iget to do again three things,
three very different things, butreally they all kind of tie
together very nicely.

Speaker 1 (09:20):
Yeah, that's super cool.
I wanna go back to somethingyou said just a minute ago and
your story about your interviewprocess, because I think that
folks that are sort of outsidethe institution, so to speak,
these academic interviews andthis whole process is it's
really something, like it issomething, and you mentioned

that of these candidates, thenumber one pick said no, for
whatever reason.
There's always reasons and,like these searches, I've only
done one interview of that kind,but they're kind of grueling,
like it's a lot.

Speaker 2 (09:59):
I mean they are grueling Vikram, I'd say.
Like so many things, I thinkthings have just gotten tougher
over time, but even way backwhen it was a two day process,
very tiresome, lots of folks.

You finish a 30, minute, 60minute session and then the door
opens and the folks in the roomleave and the next group comes
in, or they bring you down thehall and you've kind of got to
be on your A game all day for acouple of days and then the
funny thing is an opportunity tolook back at the people that

you didn't know that were a partof the interview.
And then some of those folksright now are well.
They were good friends of mine.
Most of them have since retired, but first impressions are so
very important and I remembersome of those very first
impressions of folks that thenbecame good colleagues and good

friends and, as I mentioned,many of those have now since
I'm one of the more seniorfolks right now here in this
department and have had a greatopportunity to work with some
really good people in thisdepartment and also at Texas A&M
AgriLife over the years.

Speaker 1 (11:19):
That's awesome.
So, talking about yourspecialty a little bit and what
you work on and I'm not sayingthis just because you're sitting
here, okay, I took both of yourclasses during my masters, so
we've known each other quite awhile at this point.
I did my masters 2000, gosh 10through 12 and then left and
worked for extension for a fewyears, came back, but I think

your two classes were two of myfavorites I took here, you know,
and I found the content reallyinteresting, which I think
people who it's like weedcontrol, you know like it's
There's so much to it.
And then also, I think, justyour manner of teaching and just
your presence in the classroomsvery good.

And I wanna talk about that alittle bit more later.
But getting into talking about,like, what you do and your
specialty and talking aboutweeds and weed science and all
of that, there is a lot ofthings I see online, you know,
because I've been a lot ofdifferent spaces where people
argue about like what is a weed,what's not a weed, what

constitutes what we should do inan agricultural or in a home
garden setting.
So can you give us the shortversion or the slightly more
detailed short version of whatis a weed?

Speaker 2 (12:36):
First I'm going to say thankyou for the kind words and, yes,
maybe you are saying thembecause I'm sitting right across
the table, but I appreciatethat and comments like that from
students, past students andcurrent students really do help,
especially on days when youknow things aren't going quite

so well, and always I thinkfolks may kind of wonder you
know, am I doing what I'msupposed to be doing?
Anyway, if the classroomexperience that you had with me
was a good experience, even youknow, so many years later you
still remember some of thecontent and maybe some of the

Again, I appreciate that.
So back to the question whatyou know.
What is a weed?
And I often like to providesome definitions from different
A philosopher's definition maybe a plant whose virtues have
not yet been discovered.
You know, the homeowner may saya weed's, you know, unsightly

or simply a nuisance.
An agronomic definition, andmaybe the simplest and most
common definition would be it'sa plant out of place and some
plants that may have lots ofbeauty, like a morning glory,
and folks may plant morningglories and they may grow up

trellises or up, you know,mailbox posts, and there's a lot
of beauty to morning gloriesand I would say many other weeds
But if that particular weed isgrowing where you don't want it,
if it's growing in an agronomicfield where you know there are
limited resources for plantgrowth you know there's,

especially in this environment.
There's limited water, there'slimited nutrients, there's
limited sunlight and whateverthose plants that are now
growing where they're notsupposed to be growing, whenever
they're using some of thoseconsumable limited resources,
that's taking resources awayfrom the plant that we're trying

to grow and trying to producesome something you know,
possibly the grain, possibly thefiber, possibly, you know, some
We're probably going to beproducing less because the weeds
are using some of thoseresources you know.
For the homeowner, where thingsmay be unsightly, it may be just
a matter of you know, what doyou want your front yard to look

Do you want it to be kind of amanicured type of appearance
where there's just one type ofplant out there?
It's just Bermuda grass or it'sjust a fescue?
Do you mind if you dandelionsout there a few spurges?
And if you don't want those outthere, then truly those are
plants out of place and you knowthe desire to get rid of them

may be a lot stronger than theother person that's just looking
for something green out thereand diversity may be good and a
little bit of grass out there,but a few other broad leaves and
a few other types of plants isgoing to be okay.
So plant out of place isprobably the most universal
definition and you know a lot ofthat is just up to the

homeowner or the occupant ofthat area to decide if those
plants can stay or if thoseplants need to be removed.

Speaker 1 (16:02):
It's yeah, and I think that's a really good
And you know, when we talkabout weed control or weeds just
in general, we really couch itin IPM, in our intro
horticulture class, because wetry to cover so much ground in
there that we talk about insectsand diseases and all that and
weeds kind of together.
But, yeah, I think anything youkind of don't want there for

whatever reason, that could be,again, aesthetic or economic or
whatever, and there are some,though, that fall into the
category of like noxious weedsor invasive weeds.
Is that like?
Are those plants that are morelike harmful to human health?
Are there health concerns withwhat we consider noxious weeds,

or are those just the really badones in terms of difficulty to
control and stuff?

Speaker 2 (16:51):
Well, you know, a weed is classified as noxious if
somebody just decides to put iton a list and a plan.
Now that we just need to bemore concerned about its
presence, we may not know enoughabout control, we may not know
enough about the poisonouscharacteristics, so therefore we

better do a better job oftrying to contain its presence.
Many weeds or plants arepoisonous.
Those exact same plants mayalso have lots of nutritional
benefits and properties.
I've got lots of textbooks in myoffice, like you do here in

your office.
I've got a couple of books thatare on my shelf side by side.
One of them is called EdibleWeeds and one's called Poisonous
There are many of the samegenus and species in both of
So definitely need tounderstand more of the health
benefits that lots of our plantshave, again, plant whose

virtues have not yet beendiscovered.
I think that would be part of agood definition of plants that
we call weeds.
But there may be some benefitsto those On the flip side.
Overnight they, as they produceberries or maybe are a little
bit more mature now, may containsome substances that might be a
little bit harmful to theconsumer.

Speaker 1 (18:18):
That's really interesting.
I think that's a good thing tothink about, too, which parts of
the plants we're talking about.
A good example that I givepeople sometimes is a potato.
We eat the tuber.
It's safe, it's something weuse widely, but the berries are
I think that that is a reallyinteresting point, too.

If you look at how nativepeoples in different areas use
certain plants in different waysand things that were like.
This is a bad plan as well.
Not necessarily.
It just is.
The plant just is.
Then where it intersects withour lives is where we make our
value judgments.

Speaker 2 (18:56):
I agree 100%, as you were talking about noxious weeds
or invasive weeds, I think newplants coming into an area.
I think we need to be prettycautious about the unknown.
Likely they're going todisplace something.
The plant that they may bedisplacing may be something that

has some pretty significantvalue.
Could be wildlife cover, couldbe some wildlife feed.
The new invasive coming in thatmay have a lot greater
reproductive capabilities orjust growth and development
capabilities to out-compete,need to be pretty cautious

before we let some of thosecompete naturally and likely
replace what's already out there.
We can classify plants in a lotof different ways, but I think
those that have been put on anoxious list and those that are
invasive and we may not knowmuch about them, I think are
those that we need to be mostconcerned about as they start to

move into new territories.

Speaker 1 (20:09):
I think, when we talk about that too, the idea of
needing to be cautious andknowing what we're doing is
super, because I think of likekudzu.
If you're someone listening tothis in the southeastern United
States and your dog stood stillfor too long, it's probably
covered in kudzu, but that was,unless I'm mistaken, planted in

a lot of those areas for erosioncontrol.
It just turns out that it wasvery, very good at it.

Speaker 2 (20:39):
That's a great example.
Another example that I oftenlike to use in the classroom and
probably should have been moreprepared for this conversation,
but it's prickly pear.
So, prickly pear was actuallybrought in I think it was from
Argentina, originally broughtinto Australia, and they were
using it as a live hedge or kindof a fence rug to try to keep

livestock in and it quickly gotout of control and was taken
over landscapes.
So it was something brought in,quickly got out of hand and
then through biological controlthey were able to go back to the
country of origin and actuallyfind some of the native insects

that would kind of burrow intothe pads and feed on the pads
and when they studied and thenkind of introduced some of those
insects in Australia, prettyquickly brought some of those
populations down to a much moremanageable level no eradication,
but to a more manageable level.

So I think bottom line whetherit's kudzu or prickly pear or
probably a number of otherplants that are not specifically
a part of this discussion weneed to be careful when we
introduce plants without reallyknowing the capabilities that
they may have again atdisplacing other things in the
environment that are much moreof value.

Speaker 1 (22:08):
Well, I think that's a good segue too to talking
Okay, so we have a weed right,whatever it is, whether it's
prickly pear or morning glory orGod forbid field-bind weed or
pomeran or amaranth or somethingout in the field what do we do?
Because I know there's a lot ofmethods we can use, but I think
what people think is oh,there's a weed I have to spray

chemical, like what's sort ofthe decision tree and what
options are there for us ifwe're trying to deal with those

Speaker 2 (22:37):
So on a worldwide basis.
Still, you know, physical plantremoval or weed removal is
still the most commonly usedmethod of weed control again
Pretty intense managementrequired, but it can be done If

our farms or areas that we'remanaging are small, if the
workforce is high, then I thinkthere's good opportunities to
manage weeds in that way.
I find physical removal ofweeds to be a kind of therapy,

where in the evenings I'm maybeout in the front yard and my
dog's running around doing histhing and it's an opportunity
for me just to kind of walkaround, look for plants, some
new plants that are coming inand I've got some neighbors that
are really good at allowingthose new plants to come in and
then I'm going to choose toremove a lot of them just

through hand removal or handtools, some sputters and
grubbers that may allow me toget a little bit deeper into the
soil to remove them.
So I just wanted to mentionthat really, first and foremost,
I think as farm sizes getlarger or areas get larger,

there are certainly ouropportunities to safely control
weeds by use of chemicals.
If time allows, I wouldn't mindspending a bit more time just
talking about herbicides and howmuch that we know about
herbicides and the difficulty itis getting products registered

and the scrutiny that productshave as they go through that
registration process.
So just right now, just talkingabout methods physical removal,
chemical weed control there'smechanical control by use of
rototillers or plows and discsand so forth that can be

I alluded to biological weedcontrol earlier where we're
using some kind of biologicalorganism that may suppress
another biological organism.
Could be a fish, could beinsect, could be plant on plant,
but it's some biologicalorganism.
There are some good successstories.
Unfortunately, there are reallyfew and far between and this is

an analogy oftentimes used andI don't use it, but here I'm
going to use it with you.
These are all tools in a toolboxand I don't feel like to solve
problems every time we have togo to the toolbox and grab the
But I think we need to decidewhat we need, examine the tools

that we have and you mentionedIPM earlier.
A good integrated approach tomanage all pests and weeds are
one type of pest is to look inthe toolbox and think of how
might I be able to usemechanical control and physical
I mentioned biological andchemical.

I didn't mention culturalearlier and maybe I should have
mentioned that first.
Those are kind of things thatare to some degree decisions
that the occupant of that areadecisions that they make.
It may be the variety selection, it may be the time when fields

are planted, it may be mowingfrequency and mowing height.
It may be the water schedule,water amounts, fertility amounts
, all things that hopefully willhelp get the plant of choice in
its best growth state orcondition, and that by itself is

a means of potentiallysuppressing the growth and
development of other plants andin this case weeds.
So those are all the methods.
I would say one method isn'tbetter than another method.
I would encourage folks alwaysto look at all of these
opportunities and see what mightbest fit their particular

Speaker 1 (27:01):
Yeah, and that's great advice.
You mentioned wanting to go ina little more deeply into some
of the chemical control and Ithink that's important too,
because there's a lot of fearand misinformation around some
of these products, some of them.
There probably is concern andwe don't know sometimes what we
don't know until years ofresearch have gone on.

But we have good data on all ofthese products and, like you
mentioned, they go throughextensive testing before they
ever hit the market, all theseproducts.
So do you want to speak on that?
Just a little bit, talkingabout, like, what does a
chemical have to go throughbefore you can go buy it at the
supply store or at Lowe's orwhatever?

Speaker 2 (27:45):
Yeah, so I mean a lot of these manufacturers, and
probably more so in the oldendays, maybe not so much these
days, but they used to have asignificant part of their
company on the discovery of newmolecules that have herbicidal

So once a molecule isdiscovered, there are so many
steps afterward it's thestability of the molecule, the
formulation of the molecule,knowing it's going to have to go
through lots of differentenvironments before it's
actually put into a tank andit's applied.
A lot of toxicology work isdone.

What will its impact be on theenvironment?
What is the impact on animals?
Oftentimes mice are used astest animals and they're looking
for, obviously, toxicity tothose organisms and whatever

levels are deemed to where theremay be some harmful effects.
Typically, the numbers that arethen used for those products to
be deemed okay for theregistration process are
thousands of fold greater than,or the amounts that we can use

would be thousands of fold lessthan some of the damage that we
may see, and that may be a lotmore information than really
what you wanted.
Only wanted to use this kind ofanalogy.
I think a lot of times folksthink about herbicides as kind
of this mysterious black box.
We're going to take thischemical, we're going to apply

Some plants may be affected.
Other plants are not affected,but the thought maybe we don't
really know much about thatdifference, why some are
affected and some are.
I would propose that we know alot about the products that
we're using.
That black box really isn'tthat mysterious and we have

moved more recently, and that isfrom the 1980s, to products
that we're now using thattypically are used at far less
use rates than some of theinitial herbicides, are far less
mammalian toxicity than theyused to have and they're just a

lot more maybe versatile in howthey can be used.
We know oftentimes the pathwaythat is disrupted and there are
many pathways that plants havethat humans don't have and to me
those are some of the mostdesirable products that I would
like to use, knowing that whatthey're doing in plants they

cannot do to us because thesystems that we have are so

Speaker 1 (30:49):
Yeah, and that's such a good point.
I think that is poorly andagain, if you've never taken a
class in something like this,there's no reason for a lot of
folks to already know that.
But that's poorly understood.
I think in general that peoplejust hear chemical and it's like
this is automatically bad wheneverything is chemicals right.

Ok, so meetup and we will seeyou tomorrow at a better week.

Speaker 2 (31:11):
Yeah, I mean yeah, we could talk about a lot of
cleaning products that are usedin the home and on and on, and I
would say, with crop protectionchemicals we're probably a lot
more similar to an insect andmore similar to bacteria and
fungi, I think some of theplants there are some pretty

unique differences betweenplants and animals.
I feel fortunate to be in thearea that I'm in.
We categorize our pesticidesinto different groups, groups
one through four, one being mosttoxic, four being least toxic.
Thankfully, I feel like mostall products today that are

going through the registrationprocess and even those going
through re-registration.
The majority of those are inthat category three, category
four I remember some categoryones and category two.
Some of them are no longeravailable, Some of the other
ones that we're still using.
I think we've done a prettygood job at trying to develop

systems where some of thepotential exposure and the
mixing and the handling processhas really been significantly
reduced or minimized.

Speaker 1 (32:29):
And I hope that's comforting to some folks
listening just that there is somuch testing, so much science
and regulation that goes intothis, because I think the
ultimate goal is to protect theenvironment and protect the
people that are consuming andworking around these crops and
all of those things.
Human safety and environmentalsafety have become so much more.

Not that it hasn't always beena goal, but I feel like we've
gotten a lot better at it overthe past 30 years.

Speaker 2 (32:56):
I think we have as well, and I think one of the
final messages maybe I wouldlike to address I want to be
extremely respectful to all cropprotection chemicals that I'm
I'm going to be looking atlabels to make sure that we've
got the appropriate personalprotective equipment and that

just maybe some gloves could be,some eye shields, some face
shields, some of the ones thatmaybe are a bit more toxic.
There may be some respiratorsthat are required, but I'm going
to look at that label.
I'm going to be extremelyrespectful in the mixing and the
There's postings that arenecessary, there's reentry

periods of time that need to beadhered to and I do feel, like a
lot of the growers andapplicators that I work with, I
would consider some of the mostenvironmentally sound folks that
I know, for the exact reasonsthat you just kind of alluded to
earlier, and I think they'redefinitely wanting to do the

right thing and I guess thatmakes me feel better when
applications are being made,that they're being made the
correct way.

Speaker 1 (34:12):
Yeah, that's super interesting.
Well, this seems like a goodtime for a quick break, so let's
do that.
I'll play a midroll real quickand then we'll come back and
talk more about weed control andsome different methods for weed
control, as well as have adiscussion about academia.
So we'll be right back.
Well, hey there, welcome to themidroll.
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love to hear that as well.
In the second part of thisepisode, again we talk about
We talk about different waysthat we can control weeds.
It's really a great second halfof this conversation.
I hope you stick around andlisten to part two, or the

second half of this conversationwith Dr Peter Dottray.
I'm curious to hear yourthoughts.
A couple of things before weget into more of our discussion
on teaching and all that whatare your thoughts on some of the
newer non-chemical technologiesfor weed removal?
When I say newer, that's againa relative term.
There's a lot of media outthere about electroweeding and

these laser AI robots and stuffthat'll go through a field and
identify what's a weed andwhat's not and burn them out.
Maybe there were not there yetin terms of them being widely
applied, but what are yourthoughts on those types of

Speaker 2 (38:05):
First, you mentioned electrocution and that is
getting a good look.
I think again, that's reallysome old technology that I think
is circling its way back around.
I think there are someopportunities to use some rope
wick technology, whichessentially uses products

through ropes that are placedabove the crop height or could
be above the turf grass.
I think some of those oldertechnologies are also getting a
look as well.
When you mentioned AI, thatdefinitely is new technology.

I think they've made significantadvances in allowing us to
differentiate plants based ontheir fingerprint, which may
involve the shape of the leaf,it may be the color of the
leaves or maybe most importantly, what is being reflected.

If you shine light on a leaf,what's being absorbed versus
what's being reflected, and canwe take advantage of seeing
what's being reflected and knowthat we're dealing with a
dandelion or we're dealing witha morning glory or any other
type of plant in the field thatit's growing in?

I feel like originally thattechnology, there were
opportunities, but at such aslow pace or speed through the
field we didn't have thecomputer capabilities to run
those algorithms as quickly aswe needed to to essentially

trigger a pulse of spray or nota pulse of spray, just because
it took a lot of power todifferentiate them.
Now I think we're just thatmuch further along.
I've had an opportunity to workwith some sea and spray
It's taking advantage of plantswhere they're growing, whether

it's in the row or in the innerrow space, and also trying to
take advantage of some of thedifferences and some of that
reflectance to allow us to maybedetermine yes, this is a weed,
let's try to remove it, or knowthis is a plant that is
desirable and let's make surethat we're not putting any
pulses of spray there.

Speaker 1 (40:36):
It's really interesting.
I don't know you think aboutmargin of error on some of these
things and if you've got amachine that is only putting
chemical or only putting whetherit's a laser or a little bolt
of electricity or a flame orwhatever exactly where it needs
to go precision agriculture Ifeel like that takes out a lot

of those or reduces thepotential for off-target
applications and things likethat.
It makes us safer andpotentially makes us just a lot
better at what we do.

Speaker 2 (41:14):
I think the equipment isgetting better.
I think the speed of makingthose decisions is getting
I think right now, the price ofsome of those inputs will make
it difficult for a lot of folksto take advantage of it
initially, but I think there aresome opportunities.

Typically, we find weeds notrandomly distributed but they're
found in patchy areas.
I think even takingopportunities of identifying
weeds in areas to even thenstart making applications in a
little broader area within wheresome weeds have been identified

isn't a bad initial start,because weeds are patchy.
I think a lot of that technologythat we're talking about has to
do with weeds that are alreadypresent.
I think there's still goodopportunities of controlling
weeds before they ever emerge.
It could be where there isstill a need for some more

broadcast applications initially, and then, as plants escape
some of those initial treatments, then maybe we could go through
and selectively remove based onthe weed that's there already,
knowing what chemical might bemost effective at controlling
that weed, instead of justhaving one or two chemicals in

the tank.
Some of this equipment may have15 or 20 different potential
prescriptions, depending on theplant that is being identified.
I think the future of weedmanagement will definitely
include some of these types ofintelligence and some of these
robotics, but in the short termI still feel like we still need

to be talking about mechanicaland cultural and physical
removal of weeds as potentialinputs.

Speaker 1 (43:08):
For sure I.
Just as an aside, I was at agrower meeting one time when I
was with Extension.
I don't remember it doesn'tmatter what company it was, but
it was at.
Some chemical company washaving a grower meeting.
The rep from this company thatwas giving a talk said I think
the herbicide of the future istempered steel.
For someone from one of thesecompanies to say that, I was

like oh wow, that's aninteresting thought.

Speaker 2 (43:33):
That comment.
I hear it a lot when we talkabout herbicide resistant weeds.
I spent a lot of time thesedays talking about weeds that
have changed and products thatused to be effective are no
longer effective.
There's a variety of reasonsand if that's of interest, we

can talk about that some more.
Anyway, then somebody will makethe comment that so far, no
weed has ever developed theresistance to that tempered
steel, and that's absolutelycorrect, because the direction
now seems to be more towardsreduced tillage, strip tillage,
no tillage, the comments aboutsoil health and carbon credits

and the desire to be working theland less typically.
When we see less tillage, thattends to mean we're going to be
relying more on other methods ofcontrol, and one of those other
methods is the use of herbicide.

Speaker 1 (44:36):
No, that's interesting.
I think that's a good way tolook at it too, that there's
always a trade off.

Speaker 2 (44:41):
There is always a trade-off and a lot of times in
research and in science we tendto kind of focus in the one area
that we were trained to studyand don't necessarily take into
account some of these decisionsthat are really a part of a much
larger system.
I think you know putting a goodteam of researchers together

where everybody kind of has thatlittle slightly different focus
, and then decisions can be madenow based on a variety of
different parts to the system.

Speaker 1 (45:15):
Yeah, that's a good thought for sure.
With the time we have left, Iwant to kind of switch gears
just a little bit and talk aboutmore on the education side of
You know you talked aboutresearch some and you know I
feel like the basics of researchhaven't probably changed a lot
over the years.
The way that we do it, theprocesses, the pieces have

Right, we were looking atdifferent things.
You said you work on resistancemanagement and all those things
, but I think on the teachingside things probably have
evolved a little bit over theyears.
Have you taught the whole timeyou've been here?

Speaker 2 (45:49):
Yes, I have taught.
I remember the very first timeI taught here on this campus,
had a chalkboard, had some chalkeventually moved into, you know
, transparencies and things thatmaybe were kind of created
during the classroom settingbased on topics that I knew had

to be covered or questions thatwere being asked and really
through, I think, distanceeducation and we do so much of
that here.
I think the use of pre-madepresentations through PowerPoint
and other things that havereally changed a lot of, I think

, what we kind of bring into theclassroom and maybe
opportunities that we try tocreate where and not everybody
does this, but there isopportunities, of course to
share notes and share PowerPointpresentations and just make
sure that they're available tostudents that maybe weren't able
to capture everything withinthat 50 or hour, 20 minute

period of time.
I think that's a good thoughttoo and a good comment, because
you know the classes you teach.

Speaker 1 (47:01):
I guess a couple of weed science and then herbicides
or modem mac of herbicideaction, which I've used a lot of
that information throughout mywhole career.
Like I've got to say over thepast 10 years gosh, 12 years now
I've been doing a lot ofresearch on herbicides for 10
years gosh, 12 years now, beinga county agent and professor now

or whatever.
Like I've used a lot of thatinformation.
I think about a lot of that, alot still.
But you know, there is so muchinformation in those classes,
like it is packed full ofinformation and I like the
thought that you give that.
You know, having additionalresources, whether it's
PowerPoints or lectures orwhatever, for students is

important, because I feel likenot everyone feels that way.
I feel like there's some of ourcontemporaries, our peers
across, you know, not here asmuch, but in some different
places that are.
I mean, you take the notes, youtake and then that's all you

Speaker 2 (48:00):
I guess I have often felt like I want the students to
leave the class with a set ofnotes that they can go back to
and revisit.
You know, of course, based onthe profession that they're in,
sure, and that has been one ofthe nice comments that I have
received over time.
When I run into former studentsand they'll make several

comments usually but one of themwill be that they appreciated
the thorough set of notes thatthey were able to take away,
because they have often wentback and tried to kind of
revisit or relearn some of thosedetails.
The classes that I teach.
You know, there is just oneprinciples of weed science

course here and just one youknow more detailed, you know
kind of a biochemistry,physiology, mode and mechanism
class, and I'd like to provideas much information as I can in
those 15-week courses.
So, and it's not that all ofthat is critically important for

them to be able to recallduring the semester, but I want
them to have that informationafterwards.

Speaker 1 (49:11):
That's good and I think some of the like active,
like I still remember doing theweed collection for your class.
I guess that was the principlesof weed science, the first one.
And I, you know I don't know ifyou know this, but I've never
been just a great student.
I was never just a greatstudent.
I would put things off way toolong and I remember I think I

took it I can't remember if Itook your class in the spring or
fall semester, I kind of thinkit was the fall semester because
I very clearly remember gettingtowards the deadline for that
weed collection and being like,oh crap, it's like October and
things are going dormant, andthen like scrambling around at
our research for, like, tryingto find pigweed and shepherd's

purse and whatever else was outthere.
But I learned, I just I don'tknow I learned a lot from that.
I think the like practical,hands-on approach to it was
really, at least for me, veryuseful.

Speaker 2 (50:06):
Well, that's good to know andI'd like to take credit for that
I think most of the ideas thatI have, or at least those that
I've tried to implement in class, I learned from some of my
So that weed collection I stillhave my weed collection from
when I was a student.
A similar collection was askedin the earlier years when I

I have since learned.
Now I get a lot more weeds sentto me from consultants and
growers through smartphones.
So we've now switched to wherestudents in the classroom are
putting together a digital weedcollection.
I'm looking now for multiplephotos for a given plant, kind

of one in the habitat that it'sgrowing in, then maybe a few
close-ups of a leaf and leafstructure and shape and
hairiness and some of the fruit,and then they kind of assemble
all that together.
It also now gives me anopportunity to use some of those
collections and some of mycounty programs.
So there's some nice databasesthat folks can access through

Texas Tech that show a lot ofthose collections.
The hands-on stuff that youmentioned not just weed ID that
we do in laboratory settings wedo try to spend some time on
calibration and whether it'sthrough a single wand pump-up
sprayer to a small backpacksprayer to a tractor with a

bigger boom.
We'll have students out therecollecting some of the discharge
from nozzles and trying tocalibrate the gallon per acre
solution and how much herbicideneeds to go into a tank.
So certainly spend time in theclassroom talking about some
theories of weed management, butalso the practical part of the

lab is still, I think, prettyimportant for these courses.

Speaker 1 (52:02):
Have you found and this is less, I guess, material,
specific, but just as ateaching, as a profession have
you found that the way you'vehad to approach the classroom
over the years has changed?
I know technology changes andwe change along with it, but not
to put you on the spot too much, but this is a current
I think in our field that, oh,I can't teach the way I did 10

years ago.
A lot has happened in the last10 years, but I'm just curious
to hear your thoughts.

Speaker 2 (52:35):
Well, I think one of the things an assistant
professor or a new professorneeds to figure out is the
classroom is probably not fullof themselves.

So maybe some of the desire orthe need or the drive to learn
whatever direction they plan togo and how much information like
in weed science they feel likethey need to learn, it may not
be quite the same as a studentthat knows that that's the

profession that they're going tochoose.
I hope that made a little bitof sense.
I feel like I think some of thevery first classes that I taught
and again back to the good oldchalk and chalkboard I would
love to go back to that kind ofdelivery myself to have just a

lot more of a discussion, andmaybe partly it's because now,
after 30 years of a lot ofexperience, it's pretty easy
just to talk about things thatI've seen, experiences that I've
I think some of the earlierstudents I felt like they were

maybe a little bit morededicated or they felt like they
really truly needed to learnthat information where I think a
lot of students now, because ofjust information access, a lot
of them primarily just want toknow where do I need to go get
it if I need it.

So they're just trying to be abit more organized with the idea
of I don't need to learn someof these specifics right now,
but I want to know where can Iget those pieces of information
if I ever did need them for myprofession.
So I think then the questionsthat we may ask in a quiz or

questions on an exam are goingto be a little bit different,
because some of the details thatthey're learning within the
semester may not be quite thisat the same level as they used
to be.

Speaker 1 (54:56):
That's really insightful because I remember,
even when I was in grad, Ididn't have an iPhone, I didn't
have a smartphone when I wasdoing my master's and so, yes, I
mean, we had computers and Icould go look things up, but now
every student has all of humanknowledge in their pocket they

do In Vikram.

Speaker 2 (55:18):
I too remember when smartphones first came out.
I remember when computers firstcame out, but with the
smartphones I didn't like themin the classroom and usually I
would try to make an example ofsomebody who was spending time
on their phones and really tolet them know that was not
Now if I get after some ofthose same students, they may

turn that phone around and say,look, I'm in the notes.
Or you mentioned somethingabout a website, I'm in that
So they are bringing a lot ofthat technology into the
It may be a little bitdistracting where I think some
of the eye contact really justmay not be there because they

may be focused on somethingdifferent.
Another thing that's changed Ihope I can tell this on this
podcast back in the day when wecould throw chalk or throw an
eraser, and I did that for awhile and partly I like to have
fun when I teach.
I take my profession seriousbut not quite so serious and I

think sometimes just showingstudents that we're just
everybody's human as they are.
And I've got other things thatare important in my life as well
, whether it's sports or playsor what have you, but I just
remember having some fun andthrowing stuff at students.
But that stopped when a studentmet me in the hallway who was

quite a bit bigger than me andsaid don't do that to me again
and I stopped.
So, things have changed over theyears, but some things are
still the same.
There's still the opportunityto work with young people that
have a passion and if theinformation that's being shared

in the classroom can add to thatpassion that they have and the
information that they desire tolearn, there's still a lot of
satisfaction that occurs at theend of the day with classroom

Speaker 1 (57:18):
That's awesome and I will say I've enjoyed being back
in the classroom physicallyafter 2020 and 2021.
And how weird it was my firstsemester teaching my class.
I was in the Allen Theaterwhich, for those of you
listening who aren't familiar,this is a thousand seat theater
and I had a hundred students andit felt like talking to an

empty room and it was real weird.
And so it's nice havingclassrooms where I can actually
see faces and engage withstudents a little bit.

Speaker 2 (57:50):
Yeah, and just coming out of COVID, not that many
years ago, when we were doingall of our teaching in front of
a computer or we were doingteaching when they limited the
number of students that could bein the classroom.
So don't want to forget thosedays.
But yes, the opportunity now togo into a classroom and it may

be very full Just in learning is, I mean, it's definitely a
two-way street.
So if somehow we can convey howmuch we need those students in
the chairs because if we lead adiscussion and they're not in

the chairs, the discussion isn'tgoing to be as effective then
when they're there and they'reactively participating and
asking questions and providinginformation about their
experiences, I just think itmakes the overall learning
environment better when there'smultiple folks contributing to

the topic that's being discussed.

Speaker 1 (58:56):
Absolutely, I absolutely agree and I will say
that I think this semester I'vehad one of the most engaged
classes I've had, just in termsof discussion and the back and
It's been fun.

Speaker 2 (59:07):
So again back to the COVID thing.
I feel like, coming out of that, when the students were coming
back to the classroom, I feellike some of those discussions
were pretty one-sided.
There wasn't a whole lot ofdiscussion.
I do feel like over time nowwe're starting to get back to
where some of these discussionscan be very lively.

And I've seen you in theclassroom and I know you do a
very good job.
Cool thanks, and no doubt it'sa gift to get the students to
feel comfortable and to be ableto share their experiences and,
again, I just think that makesthe learning environment and
setting so much better.

Speaker 1 (59:48):
Yeah, that's awesome.
I totally agree.
Just as we wrap up, I've got acouple of questions for you and
they're kind of specific, sortof what is your least favorite
weed, my least favorite?
If there was like one weed pestthat you were like if I never
saw this plant again, I'd becompletely happy.

Speaker 2 (01:00:08):
So typically the exact opposite is asked.
Somebody's going to ask what myfavorite is and I've got that
answer Least favorite, I guess.
Right now I'm just going to sayfield bindweed.
So field bindweed and youmentioned some of your listeners
might be in the southeast.
This is a weed that is fromnorth to southeast to west.
It's completely across theUnited States.

It may grow down 30 feet.
It's extremely difficult tocontrol and there's just so many
challenges as that plant movesinto a newer environment.
So that's probably my leastfavorite, because when I get
phone calls from folks askinghow do I get rid of it, I just
don't have very good answer it'sa battle of attrition.

And whatever that answer may be,it may be a 30-year plan where,
if you stick to this for 30years, you'll start to see some
pretty good progress.

Speaker 1 (01:01:00):
Okay, then on the other side, what's your favorite

Speaker 2 (01:01:02):
So good, I'm ready for that.
Velvet leaf, without a doubt.
Okay, velvet leaf was aMidwestern weed.
I mentioned Dr Bob Anderson.
He was collecting velvet leafaccessions from all over the
It was originally used fortextile purposes Very
problematic weed in that part ofthe country.

I think now we've got somepretty good technologies that
are allowing us to controlvelvet leaf.
Whenever I see a velvet leafnow I have to stop and take
pictures and one of the beautiesof sharing that information
with past students I willsometimes randomly be sent a
picture from a student that willsay look at this plant that I

just found and I thought of you,and it'll be velvet leaf from
some place across the country.

Speaker 1 (01:01:51):
All right, that's a good answer.
So last question I have as wefinish up here and I ask every
guest this and it's more fun tosurprise them with it just
because I want to get an honest,just off the cuff answer If
there was a piece of advice youcould leave our listeners with,
I think it'd be about anythingFavorite way to cook a steak or

a weed, control or just learning, or whatever.

Speaker 2 (01:02:17):
What thing would you like our listeners to remember
and I get this look a lotactually- I'm just what a
terrible question to ask and putme on the spot, and I'm going
to come up with a much betteranswer here in about ten minutes
I guess I'm going to go thisdirection.

I would encourage folks to havea passion and to pursue that
passion, and anything worthachieving is probably going to
have some bumps and bruises andups and downs along the way.

Enjoy doing what you're doingand pretty much give 110% to
that task.

Speaker 1 (01:03:14):
It's great advice.
I think that's a great answer.
Okay, I think that's great.
So, dr Dutra, I appreciate yourtime and just sharing your
experience and your knowledgeand everything else.
It's been a pleasure getting toknow you over the years and
getting to work with you in adifferent capacity.
Now you want to be found.

I was going to say I usuallyask where can people find you?
And then they plug their socialmedia.
But if you don't want to befound, that's fine.

Speaker 2 (01:03:42):
Well, I don't mind being found, but they're just
going to have to find me the oldfashioned way and they're going
to have to look at the Plantand Soil Science Directory here
at Texas Tech or Soil and CropScience at Texas A&M.
And we would love to haveconversations with folks that
are listening to this podcastand hopefully want to maybe just

visit a bit further about someof the things that were said.
Or maybe there's some folksthat think maybe I address
things a little bitinappropriately based on the way
that they see it, and to methat's okay as well, and I would
close by saying it's been apleasure to see you and the
progress that you've made.
I didn't know you were a badstudent at all.

I think for me you were a verygood student.
Well, I appreciate that and Iwould say that you are one that
has found that passion andyou've pursued it and you're
doing very well, and it shouldmake waking up in the morning
and going to bed in the eveninga lot easier because of the
difference that you're makingwith your career.
So I thank you for thisopportunity and I thank you for

what you do.

Speaker 1 (01:04:48):
I appreciate that a lot and again, thanks for your
time and for those of youlistening.
I hope you enjoyed thatconversation.
Reach out and we'll talk to younext time.
Y'all thanks so much again forlistening and a huge thanks to
Dr Dottray for being on the showand sharing his wisdom and his
years of experience in bothcontrolling weeds in the
landscape and the reasons to dothat, but also in the classroom

and how to connect with studentsand how to teach effectively,
because it's one thing that hedoes very well.
Thanks again to the Texas TechDepartment of Plant and Soil
Science for supporting the show,as well as the Davis College of
Agricultural Sciences andNatural Resources.
Thanks to the PodFix Network.
But once more, thanks most ofall to you.
You've got some great contentcoming up.
I'm glad you're still with meand I am glad you were enjoying

Apology, please send me somefeedback.
Keep being kind to one another.
If you have not, to this day,been kind to the people around
you, maybe give that a shot.
It's pretty cool.
Keep being wonderful, very coolplant people and I will talk to
you next time.
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