Farmers around the nation are concerned with the proliferation of “superweeds” that are affecting their crops. These-extra strength weeds are difficult to kill. They are becoming resistant to the most popular herbicides, such as Roundup. Currently, there are over 61 million acres of American farmland overtaken by weeds that are resistant to Roundup. Herbicide resistance is becoming a national epidemic in the farming community.
Over the years, data on herbicide suggests that the use of herbicides on corn, cotton, and soybeans has significantly increased, and the herbicides themselves have become less effective in killing weeds due to overexposure.
It may be surprising that some food growers that harvest genetically modified (GM) crops use more herbicides than growers using conventional seeds. Several conventional farmers say GM crop farmers are creating this problem, while GM crop farmers are pointing their fingers at conventional farmers. Both could be to blame for the growing infestation of superweeds.
GMOs are crops that are altered to withstand weed killers. The GMOs are planted each season and sprayed continuously with weed killers that will kill all other plants except the GMO crop. However, the few remaining weeds that survive the chemicals are the remaining weeds that will reproduce. These herbicide resistant weeds become the foundation to the growth of superweeds.
For over 20 years, herbicide-tolerant GMO crops have been viewed as a sensible way to increase yields and lower expenses for farmers as well as decrease the harmful risks to the environment. Many are saying it is not so, with the exponential growth of superweeds on American farmlands.
Plants are developing a resistance, which makes some farmers utilize more chemicals to rid their fields of weeds. Surviving weeds can pass their resistance on to the next generation. A recent study suggests that over the 16 years between 1996 and 2011, the use of GMO crops increased herbicide usage and caused additional environmental risks.
However, scientists have found that weeds will ultimately develop resistance to any chemical, including those utilized by organic farmers and conventional food producers. The repeated exposure to chemicals will cause this resistance to take place.
The superweed problem has impacted the wallets of farmers. The cost of using herbicides has significantly increased through the years. The need to use more herbicides will continue to add to the operating expenses for farmers and affect their bottom line.
The emergence of superweed resistance is causing growers to return to older herbicides, such as dicamba and 2,4-D, an ingredient used in Agent Orange. The use of these yesteryear herbicides is posing extreme public health risks to rural farms and communities.
The new strategies to combat the growth of superweeds are more daunting than ever. The farming landscape across the US is becoming more clustered with resistant superweeds, which can affect the way we grow our food and keep it safe for consumers to eat. As more varieties of superweeds are discovered, the farming community and scientists need to find viable solutions quickly to keep crops and the environment safe from the detrimental effects of superweeds.