History

The first Research Report from the Western Section was produced and published in 1954, followed in 1956 by the first Research Report from the Eastern Section. According to Henry Friesen, in 1957, ‘At the first Western Canadian Weed Conference in 1947, each worker gathered together his interesting experiences with 2,4-D, presented them in whatever style he chose at the conference and these together with short discussions on various special weed problems by a few of the workers formed the Proceedings. Furthermore, it was on these “testimonials” that the Weed Control Recommendations were based. As the years went by, this approach had serious shortcomings … Consequently, in 1953 the idea of the Research Report (a compilation of short reports or abstracts on individual projects) was borrowed from the North Central Weed Control Conference.’ At some point after 1953, ‘project summarizers’ were appointed. Each summarizer was assigned one or more weeds or a particular cropping situation, and was asked to prepare recommendations or changes in recommendations based on a careful review of the research information provided through research abstracts. Also, within both the Eastern and Western Sections, there were two subcommittees, each with a chairman/spokesman and with an unspecified and largely overlapping number of members: the Research Appraisal Committee and the Research Planning Committee. The functions of the subcommittees were embedded in their names, but the operational details were loose and sometimes mysterious. The outcome of the deliberations usually was quite clear, however. It was expressed in terms of recommendations for controlling a large number of different weed species, tentative answers that needed a further year’s confirmation, or questions that needed a good deal more research before an answer could be given with confidence.

The proceedings of the Eighth Meeting of the Western Section (1955, Regina) contain a report by Henry Wood (Chairman, Weeds Commission, Manitoba Agriculture), entitled Fifty years of weed control in western Canada. He ended his talk with the comment ‘The day seems to be dawning when the farmer can truly say that he is mastering one of the most baffling of farm operations – weed control.’ Well, perhaps!

At the 1957 meeting, Ken Hill (Ottawa) stated, with a touch of bragging: ‘Looking back over the past 30 years of our activity, we can be proud of much that has been accomplished. . . . It should be a source of pride to us that the work of the National Weed Committee is frequently cited as an example of a program that is well organized and well in hand.’

Not everyone was always happy with how things were going, however. For example, Vic Beck (Saskatchewan) spoke about a problem that ‘confronts the extension worker . . . the sale of chemicals in Canada for which no recommendations for suggested rates or uses have been made by the National Weed Committee or other official research group. The extension worker is in a rather ridiculous position when a chemical is licensed for sale and he is forced to admit that no official tests or recommendations are available in Canada to support the claim made on the label. Of even greater concern is the fact that the recommendations made by this committee are not necessarily adhered to in the registration of the chemical.’ He articulated, of course, the lack of correspondence that sometimes existed between ‘recommendations’ from the National Weed Committee and the information that was printed on Ottawa-approved product labels. That concern continued to plague the committee for many years.

In 1961, Categories A and B for herbicide treatments were put in place. They were intended to be used as the basis for planning further field experiments. Category A included promising control measures that had not yet reached recommendation status but might do so after one or more years of further testing. Category B included control practices ‘that have shown some promise’ and seemed to warrant further testing. The category system remained in place until some time after 1994, when the summarizer and category systems were both abolished. At least part of the reason for dropping them at that time was the continuing disconnect between Weed Committee recommendations that were based on publicly reported experimental evidence of efficacy and crop safety on the one hand, and federal government agency approval of a label registration that was based on efficacy and safety data, including toxicology information, submitted in confidence by a product’s manufacturer, on the other hand.

A related concern that arose in the mid-sixties was the potential liability of extension personnel (especially federal government employees) in making recommendations for chemical weed control that did not follow to the letter the information that was printed on Ottawa-approved product labels. The concern faded after some years, fortunately, and extension workers could again express some of their experiment-based judgment in dealing with practical weed problem questions.

At the 1966 meeting of the Western Section, Frank Nowosad, then chairman of the National Weed Committee, reported that several committees, including the National Weed Committee, had been transferred from the National Coordinating Committee on Agricultural Services to the authority of the Research Branch of Canada Agriculture. ‘Therefore, presently we are responsible to the Director-General, J. A. Anderson.’ He went on to read the broad terms of reference for the committee:

  1. To be fully informed as to Canada’s weed problems.
  2. To aid in the coordination of weed research.
  3. To suggest programs and projects for the solution of Canada’s weed problems.
  4. To summarize, interpret, and make available research data for the guidance of research workers and for the use of those responsible for extension and regulations pertaining to weed control.

The minutes of the renamed (1968) Canada Weed Committee meeting of 4-5 December 1969 record approval of a more elaborate series of terms of reference:

  1. Coordinate research on weeds and weed control by CDA, universities, industry, and provincial departments of agriculture.
  2. Encourage agreement of outlook on regulations covering herbicide usage, residues, pollution, weed seeds and control of noxious weeds among Food and Drug, regulatory, industry, extension, and research personnel.
  3. Publish annually abstracts of current research, minutes, and proceedings of meetings.
  4. Review annually results of current work and suggest up-to-date control measures for consideration by provincial extension workers, provincial and federal regulatory workers, and industry.
  5. Establish preferred terminology for weeds and herbicides and encourage use of uniform units of measurement in scientific and extension literature on weed control. Arrange for publication of accepted names where desirable.
  6. Encourage liaison with weed scientists and weed societies outside of Canada.
  7. Through extension and public relations activities, encourage safe use of herbicides and prevention of pollution of air, soil, and water by herbicides.
  8. Make recommendations to CASCC on weed problems in Canada, weed research in Canada, and regulations governing weeds, weed control, and herbicides.