As this year’s soybean harvest gets underway in the Missouri Bootheel, worries about financial losses from crop damage believed to be caused by illegal use of unauthorized varieties of the herbicide dicamba are becoming reality.
Though the harvest won’t reach its peak until early to mid-October, initial indications paint a painful picture for yields.
Mark Beaird, a soybean farmer near Parma, has harvested roughly a quarter of his 1,500 acres so far. In those areas, he says he’s lost about a third of his crop compared to past yields, mustering 40-odd bushels per acre in fields that normally produce 65 to 75 an acre.
With soybeans able to fetch close to $10 per bushel, Beaird says his losses approach $250 an acre. Multiply that by the nearly 400 acres harvested at this point and Beaird’s financial shortfall is just shy of six figures.
In late June and July, complaints of crop damage skyrocketed across the Bootheel. In just over a one-month stretch, more than 100 incidents of suspected herbicide drift were reported from four Bootheel counties alone, surpassing the usual statewide total for an entire year.
The cases, which remain under investigation by the Missouri Department of Agriculture, are thought by many to have been triggered by widespread, illegal usage of dicamba, a highly volatile herbicide which tends to vaporize into a gas and drift across wide areas. For non-GMO soybeans and other crops, contact with even low concentrations of dicamba can be harmful.
Insurance companies have indicated that they won’t compensate farmers for losses from illegal herbicide usage.
Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch