A Wayward Weed Killer Divides Farm Communities, Harms Wildlife


A Wayward Weed Killer Divides Farm Communities, Harms Wildlife
  1. A Wayward Weed Killer Divides Farm Communities, Harms Wildlife
    wqcs.org
    There's one small field on Michael Sullivan's farm, near the town of Burdette, Ark., that he wishes he could hide from public view. The field is a disaster. There are soybeans in there, but you could easily overlook them. The field's been overrun by monsters: Ferocious-looking plants called pigweeds, as tall as people and bursting with seeds that will come back to haunt any crops that Sullivan tries to grow here for years to come. "I'm embarrassed to say that we farm that field," Sullivan…
    Florida (FL)

There's one small field on Michael Sullivan's farm, near the town of Burdette, Ark., that he wishes he could hide from public view.

The field is a disaster. There are soybeans in there, but you could easily overlook them. The field's been overrun by monsters: Ferocious-looking plants called pigweeds, as tall as people and bursting with seeds that will come back to haunt any crops that Sullivan tries to grow here for years to come.

"I'm embarrassed to say that we farm that field," Sullivan says. "We sprayed it numerous times, and it didn't kill it."

These weeds have become resistant to Sullivan's favorite herbicides, including glyphosate, which goes by the trade name Roundup.

Yet the rest of Sullivan's farm is beautiful. As farmers like to say, the fields are "clean." There's not a weed to be seen.

In those fields, he planted soybeans that enjoy a novel superpower. They've been genetically modified by Monsanto, the biotech giant, so that they tolerate a different weed killing chemical, called dicamba.

As a result, starting this year, Sullivan got to spray dicamba on those soybeans. And he loves the results.

"Now we finally got a chemical [where] we can farm clean, and be proud of our crop. And don't have these vicious pigweeds coming up," he says.

But there's a dark side of this weed-killing revolution, and David Wildy is living it.

It's a real disaster," Wildy says. His voice sounds tired.

Wildy is well-known in Arkansas's farming community. He was named Southeast Farmer of the Year in 2016. This year, he planted the same soybeans that he has in previous years, not the new dicamba-tolerant ones. He didn't think he needed them.

But in mid-summer, all across his farm, a strange thing started happening. Soybean leaves bent into cupped shapes. Plants stopped growing.

"My heart just came up in my throat, thinking, 'Oh my gosh, we've got a real problem,'" Wildy says.

He was seeing the tell-tale symptoms of dicamba damage. Apparently, dicamba fumes had drifted into his farm from fields up to a mile away where neighbors had sprayed the chemical on their new dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton.

Herbicide drift is a familiar problem for farmers. What happened this summer, though, was unprecedented in its scale. Dicamba damage was reported all over the Midwest and mid-South, from Mississippi to Minnesota. Farmers filed thousands of complaints. They reported damage to tomato fields, watermelons, fruit trees, and many other crops.

Farmers have used dicamba for many years. But this year, they used more of it, and they used it in a new way, spraying it over soybeans and cotton in the heat of summer, which can cause the chemical to vaporize from soil or leaves and drift away to damage other plants nearby.

Soybeans are especially sensitive to dicamba. Wildy says that every single soybean field on his farm — thousands of acres — showed some injury. A third of those acres were hit hard enough to reduce his harvest. He says it probably will cost him several hundred thousand dollars.

Just as upsetting is the loss of trust between neighbors, as farmers argue over who should pay for those damaged crops.

One such argument led to murder last year, and the horror of it still hangs over conversations about dicamba damage in northeast Arkansas. Mike Wallace, a farmer in Monette, Ark., had complained repeatedly about damage caused by a neighbor's dicamba use. At that time, the chemical was being used illegally. For reasons as yet unknown, Wallace arranged a meeting on an isolated back road with a man named Allan Curtis Jones, who worked on that farm. An argument broke out and Wallace was shot. Jones is awaiting trial for the killing.

"It's something that is so heartbreaking to me. I see farmers taking sides, and enemies being made," Wildy says. "It's a situation that is so catastrophic and appalling, I never would have thought that I would see something like this."

Sometimes, farmers can't tell where the wind-blown dicamba came from. In other cases, the source of the damage is clear, but farmers who sprayed it insist that they sprayed the chemical exactly as directed, and refuse to accept responsibility for any damage.

Tom Burnham, a farmer near Blytheville, Ark., whose fields were damaged, says that some of his neighbors were helpful, and reported the damage to their insurance companies, just as they'd do if they were in a car accident.

"But there's some who were so nonchalant about the situation, so unforthcoming, I don't think those relationships will ever be repaired," he says. "As a human being, I can't trust someone like that."

Farmers also are battling over whether they'll get to use this weedkiller next year. David Wildy has taken a stand against further dicamba use.

"Regardless of how good it is, and how much I need it, if I can't keep it from damaging my neighbor, we can't use it," he says.

Mike Sullivan, meanwhile, says that farmers have no alternative.

"The technology is too good to just trash it," he says. "Pigweeds are literally going to take the country over if we don't control them."

Sullivan thinks the problem of damaged crops can be solved. The benefits of dicamba-tolerant crops will be so obvious, he says, that almost all the farmers in his area will decide to plant them — which means that there won't be any vulnerable crops that dicamba would damage.

That might reduce t…

  1. Swedish Journalist Kim Wall's Severed Head Found In Copenhagen Bay

    Wuwf.org - Florida (FL)
    10.07 / 17:58 wuwf.org
    Danish divers looking for the remains of Swedish journalist Kim Wall, whose torso washed ashore in Copenhagen this summer, made a gruesome discovery Friday nearby in Køge Bay. "We found a leg and then another leg, and shortly thereafter, we found a head, which was also in a bag weighed down by several pieces of metal," Chief Police Investigator Jens Møller Jensen said at a press briefing Saturday, according to a translation by The Guardian . Møller Jensen said they also found a weighted ba…
  2. Swedish Journalist Kim Wall's Severed Head Found In Copenhagen Bay

    Wqcs.org - Florida (FL)
    10.07 / 17:51 wqcs.org
    Danish divers looking for the remains of Swedish journalist Kim Wall, whose torso washed ashore in Copenhagen this summer, made a gruesome discovery Friday nearby in Køge Bay. "We found a leg and then another leg, and shortly thereafter, we found a head, which was also in a bag weighed down by several pieces of metal," Chief Police Investigator Jens Møller Jensen said at a press briefing Saturday, according to a translation by The Guardian . Møller Jensen said they also found a weighted ba…
  3. Hurricane Nate Strengthens As Its Eye Focuses On U.S. Gulf Coast

    Wlrn.org - Miami
    10.07 / 17:42 wlrn.org
    As Hurricane Nate churns over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico toward American shores, it is growing in strength and speed after leaving a trail of devastation in Central America. In its 7 a.m., CDT advisory , the National Hurricane Center said the Category 1 storm was located about 245 miles south southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and headed north northwest with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph. "We are expecting Nate to continue to strengthen today (Saturday)," said…
  4. Fresh Air Weekend: New Muhammad Ali Biography; Roz Chast Draws A Guide To NYC

    Wlrn.org - Miami
    10.07 / 17:42 wlrn.org
    Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week: New Muhammad Ali Biography Reveals A Flawed Rebel Who Loved Attention: "I don't think we do Ali any good by treating him as a saint," says biographer Jonathan Eig. "He was a human being, and he was…
  5. Swedish Journalist Kim Wall's Severed Head Found In Copenhagen Bay

    Wlrn.org - Miami
    10.07 / 17:42 wlrn.org
    Danish divers looking for the remains of Swedish journalist Kim Wall, whose torso washed ashore in Copenhagen this summer, made a gruesome discovery Friday nearby in Køge Bay. "We found a leg and then another leg, and shortly thereafter, we found a head, which was also in a bag weighed down by several pieces of metal," Chief Police Investigator Jens Møller Jensen said at a press briefing Saturday, according to a translation by The Guardian . Møller Jensen said they also found a weighted ba…
  6. Fresh Air Weekend: New Muhammad Ali Biography; Roz Chast Draws A Guide To NYC

    News.wfsu.org - TALLAHASSEE
    10.07 / 16:45 news.wfsu.org
    Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week: New Muhammad Ali Biography Reveals A Flawed Rebel Who Loved Attention: "I don't think we do Ali any good by treating him as a saint," says biographer Jonathan Eig. "He was a human being, and he was…
  7. Swedish Journalist Kim Wall's Severed Head Found In Copenhagen Bay

    News.wfsu.org - TALLAHASSEE
    10.07 / 16:45 news.wfsu.org
    Danish divers looking for the remains of Swedish journalist Kim Wall, whose torso washed ashore in Copenhagen this summer, made a gruesome discovery Friday nearby in Køge Bay. "We found a leg and then another leg and shortly thereafter we found a head, which was also in a bag weighed down by several pieces of metal," Chief Police Investigator Jens Møller Jensen said at a press briefing Saturday, according to a translation by The Guardian . Møller Jensen said they also found a weighted bag c…
  8. Fresh Air Weekend: New Muhammad Ali Biography; Roz Chast Draws A Guide To NYC

    News.wgcu.org - Florida (FL)
    10.07 / 15:50 news.wgcu.org
    Fresh Air Weekend highlights some of the best interviews and reviews from past weeks, and new program elements specially paced for weekends. Our weekend show emphasizes interviews with writers, filmmakers, actors and musicians, and often includes excerpts from live in-studio concerts. This week: New Muhammad Ali Biography Reveals A Flawed Rebel Who Loved Attention: "I don't think we do Ali any good by treating him as a saint," says biographer Jonathan Eig. "He was a human being, and he was…
  9. FEMA to offer Hurricane Irma disaster assistance today in New Port Richey

    Classichitsandoldies.com - Sarasota
    10.07 / 15:49 classichitsandoldies.com
    Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) representatives will be on site to provide assistance registering for FEMA…
  10. Child, 50+ dogs removed from Ocala home that smelled of feces

    Classichitsandoldies.com - Sarasota
    10.07 / 15:49 classichitsandoldies.com
    Authorities removed a toddler from an Ocala home that contained more than 50 dogs and smelled of feces and…
  11. No bond for ‘dangerous psychopath’ accused of sexually assaulting Haines City woman, 81

    Classichitsandoldies.com - Sarasota
    10.07 / 15:49 classichitsandoldies.com
    A man who is described as a dangerous psychopath and is accused of sexually assaulting an elderly woman will remain in jail after a Polk…
  12. Romano: Can City Hall really change the world?

    Colleges.tampabay.com - Florida (FL)
    10.07 / 15:10 colleges.tampabay.com
    Good day to you, Justice Ginsburg. You too, Chief Justice Roberts. And particularly you, Justice Kennedy. I realize getting an audience with the U.S. Supreme Court is rare, but I thought you should know the St. Petersburg City Council has put in a request for some indefinite date in the…
  13. Forecast: Hurricane Nate steers clear of Tampa Bay, scattered showers expected this weekend

    Colleges.tampabay.com - Florida (FL)
    10.07 / 15:10 colleges.tampabay.com
    While the New Orleans area preps for Nate, Tampa Bay is expected to feel minimal impacts from the Category 1…
  14. 80 Years On, Dominicans And Haitians Revisit Painful Memories Of 'Parsley Massacre'

    News.wfsu.org - TALLAHASSEE
    10.07 / 15:02 news.wfsu.org
    Even before Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo carved it in blood, the 224-mile border dividing the island of Hispaniola between Haiti and the Dominican Republic was complicated. Tensions between the two countries stemmed back to a 19th century war. But in many ways, the border, which existed mostly on paper, was a notably seamless site: Children crossed back and forth freely to go to school on one side and home on the other. Sprawling cattle ranches spanned the divide, and Dominicans and…
  15. Tapping Rural America: Craft Breweries Pour New Life Into Small Towns

    News.wfsu.org - TALLAHASSEE
    10.07 / 15:02 news.wfsu.org
    Chris Hernstrom was brewing in the craft beer mecca of Bend, Ore., when an ad caught his eye: Want to live somewhere gorgeous and make beer for a small community? "It just seemed like an interesting challenge to come out to basically the exact opposite of Bend, some place where the brewing industry is still in its fledgling stages," Hernstrom says. That place, Hernstrom's new home, is the cattle ranching hub of Valentine, Neb., population 2,700, tucked into the Niobrara River valley in the…
  16. Hurricane Nate Strengthens As Its Eye Focuses On U.S. Gulf Coast

    News.wfsu.org - TALLAHASSEE
    10.07 / 15:02 news.wfsu.org
    As Hurricane Nate churns over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico toward American shores, it is growing in strength and speed after leaving a trail of devastation in Central America. In its 7 a.m., advisory , the National Hurricane Center said the Category 1 storm was located about 245 miles south southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and headed north northwest with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph. "We are expecting Nate to continue to strengthen today (Saturday)," said Mike…
  17. Gulf Coast Braces For Fast-Approaching Hurricane Nate

    Wusfnews.wusf.usf.edu - Florida (FL)
    10.07 / 14:55 wusfnews.wusf.usf.edu
    Hurricane Nate raced swiftly over the central Gulf of Mexico on Saturday, gaining added strength as forecasters said it would smash into the U.S. Gulf Coast in coming nighttime…
  18. Hurricane Nate Strengthens As Its Eye Focuses On U.S. Gulf Coast

    Wuwf.org - Florida (FL)
    10.07 / 14:55 wuwf.org
    As Hurricane Nate churns over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico toward American shores, it is growing in strength and speed after leaving a trail of devastation in Central America. In its 7 a.m., advisory , the National Hurricane Center said the Category 1 storm was located about 245 miles south southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and headed north northwest with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph. "We are expecting Nate to continue to strengthen today (Saturday)," said Mike…
  19. Hurricane Nate Strengthens As Its Eye Focuses On U.S. Gulf Coast

    Wqcs.org - Florida (FL)
    10.07 / 14:45 wqcs.org
    As Hurricane Nate churns over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico toward American shores, it is growing in strength and speed after leaving a trail of devastation in Central America. In its 7 a.m., advisory , the National Hurricane Center said the Category 1 storm was located about 245 miles south southeast of the mouth of the Mississippi River and headed north northwest with maximum sustained winds of 85 mph. "We are expecting Nate to continue to strengthen today (Saturday)," said Mike…
  20. 80 Years On, Dominicans And Haitians Revisit Painful Memories Of 'Parsley Massacre'

    Wuwf.org - Florida (FL)
    10.07 / 14:30 wuwf.org
    Even before Dominican dictator Rafael Trujillo carved it in blood, the 224-mile border dividing the island of Hispaniola between Haiti and the Dominican Republic was complicated. Tensions between the two countries stemmed back to a 19th century war. But in many ways, the border, which existed mostly on paper, was a notably seamless site: Children crossed back and forth freely to go to school on one side and home on the other. Sprawling cattle ranches spanned the divide, and Dominicans and…