“The beautiful and difficult thing about Biology is things happen”

A light overview of one of today’s deadliest agricultural mishaps.

by Hannah Van Zant, EEOB

Amongst the obvious stressors of farmers regarding drought, yields, and how to go about a successful financial year with their crops overlays a thick fog of twists and turns which has seemed to both physically and mentally setback those who commercially grow soybeans.

Amongst the controversial and highly discussed headlines of the past year and reaching back into 2016 has seemingly hidden from the common layman the news of the hyped herbicide, Dicamba.  Provided by Monsanto and abundantly approved by the EPA, Dicamba is advertised as a ‘selectively killing herbicide’ by those who spray it, and as an “airborne menace” by those who are affected by it. Quite an opposing range of blunt descriptions for just one commonly used herbicide.

The unintentional, yet still readily occurring, exposure of Dicamba to nonresistant soybeans has resulted in the abnormal leaf development of ‘cupping’ and the irreversible, and very much guaranteed, death of the legume.

There’s no shortage of complaints on the internet constructed by farmers who have had their fill of the drifting herbicide and all it has offered them – poisoned soybeans and a drained bank account.  That’s right, Insurance companies can’t cover the effects of herbicide when it spreads through drift. More simply put, if you neighbor chooses to spray Dicamba on their resistant crops and you happen to have soybeans in your field that year, that cool breeze you feel as you walk out the door is not doing you or your wallet any favors for that year, nor for the years to come.

Therefore, if you’re a farmer with a good working and cooperative relationship with your neighbors, consider yourself in luck. Unfortunately, it hasn’t been the case for the majority.  A murder on the Arkansas-Missouri line has already been committed due to the effects of one farmer’s (one might say irresponsible) spraying of Dicamba next to his farmer’s nonresistant soybeans.

The most important question now remains – Can this all be avoided? According to Monsanto, it can be. In fact, they say it should and should have been avoided from the very beginning.

When Ty Witten of Monsanto was interviewed regarding the herbicide use, he explained that the growers are simply applying the pesticide incorrectly.  In a different article provided by AgWeb, UA Extension agent Robert Goodson explained that, “Some guys are doing it absolutely right by the label and are still ending up with Dicamba on a neighbor’s crops through volatility.”

Witten also offered the insightful excuse that Dicamba is getting unfairly blamed, seeing as how other herbicides can mask themselves as Dicamba. He said they “had been seeing some of that.”

On an end note, I will leave you with the all-encompassing quote given by Monsanto’s North American Crop Protection Systems Lead regarding the devastation of Dicamba-affected farmers from the draining of funds and losses of nearly 30% of their yields due to the decisions of a neighbor and the event of a light breeze.

“The beautiful and difficult thing about Biology is things happen.”

What do you all think? Please comment below.

About me

My name is Hannah Van Zant and I am an Evolution and Ecology major at The Ohio State University.

Amongst other things, I enjoy being out and about enjoying music and exploring all that life offers here in Columbus, as well as staying in and enjoying the last few days of my HBONOW free-trial.










This blog post was an assignment for Societal Issues: Pesticides, Alternatives and the Environment (PLNTPTH 4597). The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the class, Department of Plant Pathology or the instructor.


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