History

For the Fifth Meeting of the Western Division of the Associate Committee on Weeds, in Regina in July 1939, E.S. Hopkins of the Dominion Department of Agriculture is listed as chairman. Responsibility for the committee apparently had shifted away completely from the National Research Council. The title on the cover of the 1942 report of the new committee shows:

Dominion of Canada

National Advisory Committee on Agricultural Services

REPORT OF THE NATIONAL COMMITTEE ON WEEDS FOR 1940-1941

Being a continuation of the work previously carried on by the

Associate Committee on Weed Control of the National Research Council

There was no meeting of the committee during 1940. Robert Newton prepared a report, however. A concluding comment in the report reads: ‘The results of controlled experiments in this country leave no doubt that weeds are a source of loss comparable with plant diseases and insect pests. We have built up large organizations to deal with the two latter, while with minor exceptions weeds are still an incidental responsibility of agronomists and botanists.’ This concern is repeated from time to time in reports from both earlier and later meetings.

The Executive Committee met in February 1941, and its members agreed that it would not be advisable to call a meeting of the full committee. Committee members did, however, submit brief progress reports that were copied and distributed.

Again, only the Executive Committee met in September 1942, and ten members from the Eastern and Western Sections met in Ottawa in June 1943. No formal record of the meetings appears to be available. E. Grant Anderson reported in 1969, in Some comments on the history of the Canada Weed Committee 1929 – 1969, that they discussed ‘the comparison between the attention and money given on the control of insect pests and diseases and the lack of coordinated effort given to weed control. It was hoped that they could draw the attention of Dominion and Provincial Governments to this discrepancy . . . .’

They further agreed that there was a real need for a first-class publication dealing with weed and weed seed identification. In 1944, there was no meeting, but arrangements were put in place for the production of a motion picture ‘Just Weeds’, with $10,000 in funding from the Massey-Harris Company. In 1946, another film was produced, dealing with four deep-rooted perennial weeds (hoary cress, leafy spurge, Russian knapweed, and field bindweed), this time with funding from the Chipman Chemical Company.

During that same year, R.O. Bibbey was selected and appointed as ‘permanent secretary’ to the committee. The importance of having such a person had been emphasized at every meeting of the committee. Bibbey served until 1948, and was succeeded a year later by E. Grant Anderson who served in that role for some twenty years.

In 1942, Robert Newton had resigned as chairman, to accept other responsibilities. He was replaced by Ken W. Neatby who, in turn, was replaced by Henry Wood of the Manitoba Weeds Commission in 1946. It is worth noting that, prior to 1991, Henry Wood was the only chairman who was not an employee of the federal government. Wood served until 1949, when he was replaced by P.O. Ripley, and the leadership role reverted to federal government personnel.

The first report of a nation-wide weed survey was issued in February 1944, as the Canadian Weed Survey, First Report (1942). Its importance was stressed in the foreword: ‘It is with this broad outline that the first issue of the Canadian Weed Survey is handed to the public. It is ardently hoped that this entirely original presentation of an annual weed survey will soon win for itself the support of all who are concerned with weeds and all those who regard weeds as their concern.’

In June 1945, the full Committee met again, for the first time since 1939, this time in Saskatoon. One of three resolutions passed was the following interesting one: ‘That in the opinion of this Committee it would be a mistake to limit the membership of national committees to public servants, as there are many persons outside the Government Service who can contribute much to agriculture by serving on national committees, provided that all committee members are approved by the Deputy Minister of Agriculture.’

In 1946, the advisability of setting up Eastern and Western Sections came under discussion again. Such separate sections also had existed between 1935 and 1939. They were duly organized in 1947, although the nature of their organization is not clear from available documents.

The first Western Canadian Weed Control Conference was held on 26-28 November 1947 in Regina. The event was held ‘under the auspices of the recently organized Western Section of the National Weed Committee of Canada.’ It brought together 142 weed workers from provincial governments, universities, federal government, and commercial organizations, to present and discuss the results of their research. These Western Weed Conferences were held every year from 1947 to 1953, and then every second year until 1961, when the last one took place in Edmonton. On two occasions, in 1952 and in 1959, the meetings were held jointly with the North Central Weed Control Conference. The conferences were ‘sponsored’ by the Western Section of the National Weed Committee, but otherwise seem to have had a quite separate and independent existence, because the regular Western Section meetings continued during the conference ‘off’ years. In the ‘on’ years of the conference, the Western Section meetings were held in conjunction with them. The Eastern Section held its first meeting in January 1948.

Current records indicate that the 1947 western conference is taken as the first meeting of what is now the Canadian Weed Science Society. There are good reasons, however, to suggest that the October 1929 meeting is more appropriately considered the first organized meeting. The group that met at that time was smaller in number but the people who participated were as diverse as those who attended the conference in Regina in 1947. More importantly, there is a much clearer continuity from the 2002 inaugural meeting of the Canadian Weed Science Society back to the October 1929 conference in Edmonton than to the Western Weed Control Conferences held from 1947 to 1961.

In the meantime, a new era in chemical weed control had begun, and a large section of the 1947 conference program was devoted to 2,4-D, its formulations, its concentrations, and its uses. Most of the research reports presented, if not all, dealt with 2,4-D in some form. The proceedings include recommendations as to what information should appear on the label of 2,4-D-containing products, what rates might be used to control a number of annual and perennial weeds, and what important features farmers should look for in sprayers. The importance of 2,4-D is exemplified by the fact that the proceedings contain a listing of all problematic annual and perennial broadleaved weeds as to their susceptibility or resistance to 2,4-D.

Grant Anderson reported in 1955 on the number of herbicide products that were registered. In 1946 there were 56, in 1948 and 1949 the number had increased to 131 and 190, respectively, and in 1954 there were 308. Of the 190 registered in 1949, 147 contained some form of 2,4-D.