Scientists tracking reported dicamba damage released new data Monday that show the controversial weedkiller’s suspected footprint widening significantly, as numbers of investigations and estimated acres of soybeans injured spiral ever higher, especially across the Midwest.
The data, compiled by Kevin Bradley, a plant sciences professor at the University of Missouri, now show complaints about the herbicide’s off-target movement have now been made in 21 states, in a broad area stretching from North Dakota to Georgia.
Through surveys of state departments of agriculture, the findings identify at least 2,242 official investigations into dicamba damage nationwide, as of Aug. 10. Estimates from state extension weed scientists, meanwhile, show suspected dicamba damage has affected at least 3.1 million acres of soybeans overall — an area approaching the size of Connecticut.
The numbers are significant not just for their size and scale, but also for the rate at which they’ve leapt since Bradley conducted a similar survey just three weeks prior.
Beginning this growing season, new formulations of the weedkiller were available for use with cotton and soybean seed varieties genetically engineered to tolerate the chemical. Though the new forms of dicamba are supposedly less prone to vaporizing and drifting off target than old varieties, experts say their widespread use and continued concerns about volatility have fueled this year’s eruption of complaints.
As Bradley notes, the ultimate effect any dicamba damage will have on yields and on farmers financially cannot truly be quantified until harvest time.
Read more: St. Louis Post-Dispatch