Most farmers know that the yields of any growing season are impacted by the vagaries of Mother Nature: too much rain, too little rain, excessive heat, unseasonably cold weather. This past summer, however, those growing soybeans and cotton saw their crops ruined by someone in close proximity: neighbors using the dicamba herbicide.
In attempt to eradicate Roundup-resistant pigweed from their fields, some farmers used dicamba, which then wafted over to neighboring land. In the past, those growing soybeans and cotton would avoid employing the herbicide as it kills the tip of the leaves and causes blistering and puckering on the surface.
This reticence to use the herbicide was removed as Monsanto genetically engineered soybean and cotton seeds to make them resistant to the poison. These Xtend products were released in two waves: cotton seeds in 2015 and soybean in 2016. The company intends to market other herbicide-resistant crops in the future. As a goal, the company aims to have 250 million acres planted with seeds from its Xtend product line. Currently, 3 million acres of cotton and 1 million acres of soybeans planted are of the Xtend variety.
As the Xtend technology is relatively new to the farming community, those purchasing the new type of seeds were outnumbered by those who didn't. Unfortunately, when those in the minority who had bought Xtend seeds began using dicamba, their neighbors felt the impact of the spray on their crops. The EPA has issued a warning on the off-market use of dicamba after fielding complaints from farmers in ten states.
In the long run, soybean and cotton farmers who have lost crops to the drift will be able to make purchases of Xtend products for the next season. Problems occur when the herbicide is used to combat pigweed near farms growing crops with no resistance, such as peanuts, fruit and vegetables. As a new growing season begins, the success of those farmers at the end of the harvest will again be at the whim of Mother Nature and their neighbors.