Pigweed: A Genetically Diverse Monster

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Pigweed is a weed that's changed life for practically every cotton farmer in Georgia. One expert says if you can't manage it, you won't be picking your cotton field.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And now a quick preview of a story coming to MORNING EDITION. Our food and agriculture correspondent, Dan Charles, just took a trip to Georgia. Here he is face to face with the number one enemy of Georgia cotton farmers. It's a weed that America's favorite weed killer can't kill anymore.

DAN CHARLES, BYLINE: I'm here in a greenhouse in Tifton, Georgia with Stanley Culpepper from the University of Georgia and we are looking at a weed that has changed life for practically every cotton farmer in this part of the country. It's called pigweed and it is a plague. Why is it a plague?

STANLEY CULPEPPER: It's ability to rapidly grow, our inability to control it economically and effectively, it's ability to produce a bunch of seed. It is a genetically diverse monster. Basically, if you can't manage it, you won't be picking your cotton field.

MONTAGNE: So this weed can't be killed by the number one weed killer in the country, the herbicide that goes by the trade name Roundup. And if Roundup won't work, what are farmers supposed to do? That's where the argument begins. We'll hear more on how to fight super weeds later this week.

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