Invasive Pigweed Threatens Soybean Crops

Jun 29, 2015

Planter spreads soybean seeds at Burchett Farms
Credit Nicole Erwin / WKMS

Kentucky soybean farmers are dealing with a pesky invasive weed that could choke out their crops.

Palmer amaranth, commonly called pigweed, is resistant to most herbicides and, for the first time, was spotted on Mike Burchett’s farm in Calloway County.

Burchett is the President of the Kentucky Soybean Association and says the super-weed started in Arkansas and is difficult to manage if it isn’t detected early.

“Roundup, which is our old standby, it’s resistant to it," Burchett said. "And it’s resistant to several other chemicals, so we just keep changing our cocktail.”

The USDA reports 72 percent of Kentucky’s soybeans had been planted as of June 14. If preventative methods aren’t sufficient, farmers will have to resort to disking or hand cultivation.

Amaranthus palmerii, pigweed, photographed in Phoenix, Arizona
Credit Wikimedia Commons/Author: Pompilid

"It’s kind of like the superbugs that become resistant to antibiotics, and that's what that is in the weed family, it's resistant to our known control measures," said Burchett.

Burchett said it’s too early to tell whether or not the pigweed will affect the market. He'll be watching to see if big soybean state's like Illinois get hit with the weed.