Farmer Focus: GM crop causes rift with neighbour

Someday there may be a book written about all the conflict caused by Monsanto’s dicamba-resistant soya beans during the 2016 and 2017 growing seasons, they might call it something like The Dicamba Dilemma.

Last summer, an Arkansas farmer who had complained about drift harming his non-dicamba soya beans was shot dead by an irate neighbour.

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As far as I know, 2017 has not yielded a murder over soya beans, but there have been plenty of hard feelings, and I assume those will lead to at least a few lawsuits (and hopefully no more murders).

A letter on 20 August to the Topeka Capital-Journal called for Kansas to ban dicamba. Tennessee, Missouri, Arkansas and Kansas placed restrictions on the use of the herbicide this summer, and I read the Environmental Protection Agency may place further restrictions for the 2018 crop year across the entire nation.

I planted 8ha of the Roundup Ready Xtend soya beans this year, chiefly to get along with a neighbour who wanted to use them and didn’t want the hassle of a buffer strip against my field.

As far as I knew, the entire operation had gone off without a hitch, until I received a belated phone call this week from another neighbour across the river, who said drift from our fields had damaged his soya beans. 

This brought the whole issue home for me. I didn’t want to plant the beans to begin with, because of drift, but did to get along with one neighbour, only to find out we harmed another neighbour. 

The Xtend technology (which has tolerance to glyphosate plus dicamba) is great, the best weed control since Roundup Ready, but I doubt I will use it again. We followed all the rules and still had drift problems. 

Over the years I have stuck up for Monsanto, I’ve appreciated the technology they have brought to farming. Using their products has made my life easier, and my farm more profitable. 

However, they floated a stinker on this one. Clean soya beans are not worth incurring the hate of your neighbours.

Brian Hind farms 1,250ha of prairie land, of which 960ha is family-owned and the rest rented. Of this, 330ha is arable cropping with maize, soya, grain sorghum, alfalfa plus a mix of rye, triticale and turnips for grazing his herd of 400 beef cattle. Grassland is used to produce hay.