Instances of highly troublesome “superweeds” have been growing across the Midwest and in other areas where large-scale monoculture farming is common, and now a new growth trend spotted on Iowa and Nebraska farms could have major consequences.
In this case, farmers in southwest Iowa and eastern Nebraska in particular are noticing growth of the weeds, which have developed a natural resistance to glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in the agrochemical company Monsanto’s best-selling herbicide Roundup, or other herbicides.
The superweeds threaten to cause major damage to both soybean and corn crops according to this article from the website Omaha.com.
Potential losses of up to $200 per acre and up to 30 percent of soybean crop losses in any particular season are possible due to even a mild or moderate infestation, which could be taking root in these areas.
Superweed Menace is Actually a Highly Nutritious Plant
In this case, the superweed in question is one of the hardiest plants in the country, a type of amaranth called Palmer amaranth that began growing on farms in southwest Iowa in September 2013.
The weed is a cousin of waterhemp, which grows in Eastern Nebraska. Some waterhemp has also been found to be resistant to glyphosate recently as well in Nebraska.
What many people would be surprised to learn about amaranth is that it is actually a highly nutritious plant with some characteristics similar to the popular new health food quinoa, one that is also sold in some health food stores and online.
Amaranth is said to be the only grain that contains vitamin C, and is rich in iron, calcium, protein, manganese, fiber and several other key minerals and nutrients, which actually makes it far nutritious than the genetically modified corn and soy that is grown en masse.
Its name comes from the Greek word “amarantos,” or “one that does not wither,” and that’s what seems to be occurring in fields across America as the plants.
The plant’s growth shows no signs of slowing down in these parts of Iowa and Nebraska, which is understandable considering how mobile and equipped to survive it’s capable of being.
A single amaranth plant an produce up to 1 million seeds in a year according to a report from the academic journal Weed Science, and often pops up far away from where the seed is originally planted.
Researcher Says Superweed Must Be Stopped
According to Mike Owen, a weed specialist at Iowa State, the superweeds threaten to infest half of Iowa’s row crops if something isn’t done to control their spread. Iowa is particularly well known for growing massive amounts of Monsanto corn and soy, most of which is row-planted and most of which is GMO.
“If Palmer amaranth spreads across Iowa like waterhemp, it’ll be devastating,” over the next ten years, he told Omaha.com.
Superweed and Superbug Infestations Becoming Common
A late 2013 report showed that the number of superweeds caused by the overuse of Roundup and other chemicals has skyrocketed in recent years.
The report, released by the Union of Concerned Scientists, noted that as much as 60 million acres of U.S. farmland had become infested with herbicide-resistant superweeds, and more than 90 percent of soybean and cotton farmers in particular were affected (the vast majority of both crops are genetically modified).
And last year, a massive corn rootworm problem led to crop losses in Illinois among other states where GMO corn was heavily used, adding to the view that certain farm chemicals and genetically modified crops may be more faulty than suspected, and environmentally damaging, than first thought.