New Weed Control Opportunities Too Much Of A Good Thing?

This test plot of dicamba-resistant soybeans was being grown in mid-2007 in central Illinois.
This test plot of dicamba-resistant soybeans was being grown in mid-2007 in central Illinois.

 

Can crop protection products used effectively for decades become a danger to agriculture if their usage levels increase? This is the question facing USDA and EPA following legal action taken by a coalition of 2,000 U.S. growers and food companies.

Last week, the Save Our Crop Coalition filed legal petitions with both government agencies asking them to delay the anticipated rollout in the next few years of 2,4-D- and dicamba-resistant crops. What’s different about these petitions, however, is they aren’t opposed to the biotech nature of these new crops, but the chance that these new varieties will increase the usage of these long-established crop protection products, potentially increasing the chance for spray drift issues on neighboring fields.

“The danger that 2,4-D and dicamba pose is a real threat to crops . . . nearly every food crop,” said Steve Smith, director of agriculture at canned tomato producer Red Gold and member company of the coalition, in a release. Smith went on to claim that during the past four years, Midwestern growers have suffered more than $1 million in crop losses due to 2,4-D and dicamba drifting onto their fields.

In its legal challenge, the coalition is asking USDA to conduct an environmental impact study on the ramifications of 2,4-D tolerant corn and dicamba-tolerant crops. At EPA, the group wants the agency to conduct a scientific advisory panel meeting and appoint advisors to address spray drift.

But can opponents really prevent long-established crop protection chemistries, which have been used effectively and safely for decades, from being employed in new ways? Also, if these products become more popular because of these new cropping systems, do their spray drift “what ifs” outweigh the proven weed control opportunities they present to growers?

It will be interesting to see how USDA and EPA respond to these challenges. Stay tuned . . .

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