Saturday, October 8, 2011


Superweed does not refer here to a species of very strong Marijuana: although the term has been used in that context as well.  The superweed we are speaking of hear are a variety of roundup resistant weeds that are creating a real headache within the agricultural industry.  Some of the worst of these weeds are horseweed, ragweed, waterhemp, and the dreaded Palmer Pigweed.
We have, indirectly, had a discussion about superweed earlier when we were talking about the “grey” (company sponsored) research.
Note that there is some disparity in dates in some of the quoted articles.  As there has been no reported eradication of the problem that I have heard of,  this means that some of the impact totals may be higher than stated.

Jack Kaskey, Businessweek, 8 September 2011
The use of Roundup Ready seeds has transformed farming in the 15 years since their debut, allowing growers to easily dispatch hundreds of types of weeds with a single herbicide while leaving crops unscathed. “When the Roundup system first came out, to a farmer this was the best thing that ever happened,” says Cariker, who used the labor-saving technology to double his planted acreage, to 5,000. “Farmers thought we had died and gone to heaven.”

Not exactly: It turns out the widespread use of Roundup has led to the evolution of far-tougher-to-eradicate strains of weeds.
Clea Caulcutt, France24, 19 April 2009 (hat tip:  NC)
Today, 100,000 acres in Georgia are severely infested with pigweed and 29 counties have now confirmed resistance to glyphosate, according to weed specialist Stanley Culpepper from the University of Georgia. 
“Farmers are taking this threat very seriously. It took us two years to make them understand how serious it was. But once they understood, they started taking a very aggressive approach to the weed,” Culpepper told FRANCE 24.
“Just to illustrate how aggressive we are, last year we hand-weeded 45% of our severely infested fields,” said Culpepper, adding that the fight involved “spending a lot of money.”
In 2007, 10,000 acres of land were abandoned in Macon country, the epicentre of the superweed explosion, North Carolina State University’s Alan York told local media.
“Palmer pigweed is the one pest you don’t want, it is so dominating,” says Culpepper. Pigweed can produce 10,000 seeds at a time, is drought-resistant, and has very diverse genetics. It can grow to [ten feet] high and easily smother young cotton plants.

Palmer Pigweed (Source: Virginia Tech Weed Guide)
Others have seen opportunity in Monsanto’s problems.  The makers of older brands of weed killers, Bayer, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Syngenta, see a way to elbow back into the market
Superweeds Go Mainstream: Is Monsanto’s brass starting to get nervous?
Sky Valley Chronicle, 13 September 2011

Sort of like bringing back the old Sherman tank from WW2 to do duty in Iraq once our military Humvees over there were found to have no steel plating on the bottom to protect U.S. soldiers from roadside IED’s -- one of the less brilliant military strategies ever deployed in warfare according to those who survived a direct IED hit underneath an unprotected Humvee.
Of course this wide spread use of even more chemicals on a regular basis has the potential to create a monsterweeds that are resistant to even more chemicals.

Of course there is always the concern that something unique and very scary might show up.  While this one is arguably not unique, it has not shown up in some time.

The dreaded Beanstacus Superous (Source)

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