Dicamba, an herbicide developed by Monsanto for use on crops genetically engineered to resist it, has become the target of a growing number of complaints from farmers across southern Minnesota.
According to Minnesota Public Radio News, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture is currently investigating about two dozen complaints from farmers in the state who say that dicamba drifting from neighboring fields is harming their crops.
Farmers who don’t use dicamba on their crops say the drifting herbicide is deforming their soybean plants so that the leaves are severely cupped. One farmer told MPR News that the plants will grow out of it somewhat, but the crops are damaged nonetheless.
Monsanto has genetically engineered soybean, cotton, and other broadleaf crops to resist its dicamba herbicide, which will kill just about every other plant.
While complaints about dicamba crop damage in southern Minnesota began pouring into the Department of Agriculture in July, the same problem is frequently reported throughout the Southern U.S.
The problem of dicamba-damaged crops has become bad enough in Arkansas, Missouri, and Tennessee that officials in those states have taken measures to restrict and in places bar dicamba usage.
Greg Cremers, a supervisor in the Minnesota Department of Agriculture’s pesticide and fertilizer management division, told MPR that the agency is starting to see a trend now of dicamba complaints coming from the central part of the state, evidence that the problem is spreading.
One farmer who does not use dicamba told MPR that he doesn’t blame the farmers who do use the weedkiller but puts the blame on the product itself. He told MPR that he’s spoken to farmers using the product and he believes they are spraying it properly and avoiding spraying it in windy conditions.
Monsanto chief technology officer Robb Fraley told MPR that there may be some small-scale drift problems but for widespread crop damage, it’s the farmers who are to blame. He said farmer error – improper usage, off-label usage, and failure to adequately clean herbicide tanks – are among the problems contributing to crop damage.