Getting excited about weeds — no, really

- February 20, 2015

Scott White. (Provided photo)
Scott White. (Provided photo)

For most people, annoyance, displeasure and frustration are prompted by the very mention of weeds. Who could really be excited over something as annoying and pesky as garden invaders?

Scott White gets excited. His face lights up at the mention of weeds and his enthusiasm increases as he goes into detail about his research.

“I find weeds quite fascinating,” he explains. “These plants are here specifically because they have been able to survive everything that Mother Nature has thrown at them up to this point in their evolution. You have to give them a bit of respect for that.”

Dr. White has been an assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Sciences in Dal's Faculty of Agriculture since September. A native of Amherst, NS, he has undergraduate and masters degrees from NSAC (now the Faculty of Agriculture) and a PhD from the University of Guelph. His research program is still in the early stages of development, but focuses on the development of integrated weed management plans for a variety of crops.

“I personally enjoy working with perennial weeds and perennial crops,” says Dr. White. “I’m beginning to work with the wild blueberry industry as I get my program started.”

Valuing agricultural diversity

Dr. White’s research was sparked by his love for the agriculture industry in Atlantic Canada. From wild blueberries, cranberries, carrots and other crops, he values the diversity among the agricultural industry.

“I grew up here and I want to see the region prosper,” explains Dr. White. “I think I understand the weed problems and feel I can pursue the appropriate solutions to those problems.”

He sees weeds as a major yield limiting factor in most cropping systems. As weed floras become more complex and species adapt to traditional management practices, many important crops in Atlantic Canada face significant weed management challenges. Through his research, Dr. White hopes to provide effective and economical solutions to weed management problems.

Improving management of weeds

Dr. White's ultimate goal is to focus on weed management in perennial systems and management of perennial weeds, but he stresses that he wants a diverse research program tackling problems in a variety of systems. He wants to integrate knowledge of weed population ecology and reproductive biology into weed management strategies, improve timing and effectiveness of management practices, maximize the effectiveness of currently registered herbicide products, and explore non-chemical approaches to weed control. He is working to establish connections with local industry and commodity groups, such as the Wild Blueberry Producers Association of Nova Scotia, to develop proposals and begin tackling management issues.

“I’d like to talk directly to industry and actually discuss problems with the growers and producers who are dealing with those problems on a regular basis,” he explains.

It’s Dr. White's passion for helping others solve problems and his love for agriculture in Atlantic Canada that will help manage weeds and allow the local agriculture industry thrive and become more productive. On those terms, it's hard not to get a little bit excited about weeds alongside him.


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