Farmers are facing a superweed and a super problem dealing with it. The terror, known as pigweed, grows rapidly and produces over 100,000 seeds, allowing it to spread like wildfire, sapping crops of much-needed sunlight, water, and nutrients. Worse yet, pigweed has grown resistant to most common herbicides and often needs to be removed by hand, a time-consuming and expensive prospect for farmers who have hundreds or thousands of acres infested with the weed.
Pigweed is susceptible to a chemical known as dicamba, but that herbicide is also deadly to the crops in the field. In response, agribusinesses have produced new genetically modified crops that are dicamba-resistant, allowing farmers to plant soybeans and cotton that can survive dicamba sprayings.
However, neighboring fields are often not planted with dicamba-resistant crops and improper use of the chemical can result in a dead zone around sprayed fields, leading to heated arguments between neighbors. There have already been over 1000 complaints about dicamba misuse this year, and an argument between two Arkansas farmers over dicamba losses turned deadly in 2016. Increasing issues with the herbicide have resulted in a crackdown by states against the chemical.
Crop losses this year to weeds or dicamba are unknown, but the conflict between superweeds, herbicides, and herbicide-resistant crops will continue to be an ongoing saga in modern agriculture for years to come.