Arkansan soybean farmers are wrapping up a summer of harvesting bumper crops alongside the crippling devastation of their neighbors’ fields, writes Tiffany Stecker on the Bloomberg BNA website. The same herbicide is causing both optimism and bitterness in the region, and discussions over its future use is dividing farmers, scientists, and industry.
Dicamba, a weedkiller first registered in 1967, has undergone a makeover to fight weeds immune to most herbicides. BASF Corp., Monsanto Co., and DuPont this year stocked new versions of dicamba, designed for use with Monsanto’s soybeans and cotton that are genetically-engineered to withstand the new herbicides. But the herbicide spread easily to neighboring farms, falling on vulnerable crops.
This summer was one the best growing seasons in years for Arkansans in terms of controlling insidious weeds that creep into fields. It also was a year of unusual harm to nearly a third of the state’s soybean crops, marked by curled leaves, stunted growth, poor yields, and J-shaped pods that have been tied to new formulations of the herbicide.
What was a blockbuster year for many growers cost others millions of dollars, pitting farmer against farmer and scientists against the herbicide’s manufacturers.