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DICAMBA

Leaves and a stalk from a soybean plant showing signs of being affected by dicamba.

A northeast Nebraska farmer has filed a lawsuit against four companies that make products using the herbicide dicamba.

In the lawsuit filed last week in U.S. District Court, Shane Greckel, who farms near Bloomfield in Knox County, said the application of dicamba products by his neighbors caused damage to his soybean crops last summer.

Dicamba, which kills broadleaf plants, including soybeans, has garnered a lot of publicity in the past few years due to its tendency to vaporize and drift to neighboring fields if not applied properly. The Environmental Protection Agency estimated that 4 percent of the nation's soybean crop was damaged by dicamba last year.

Monsanto has faced a number of lawsuits over damage allegedly caused by dicamba, including a class-action suit in Missouri. Both Missouri and Arkansas banned the use of dicamba after certain dates.

Soybean farmers who use dicamba use seeds that are genetically engineered to be dicamba-resistant. Farmers who don't use the dicamba-resistant seeds can see their soybean crops damaged by the chemical.

Greckel says in his lawsuit that's exactly what happened, as applications of dicamba by neighboring farmers led to " significant dicamba injuries on his crops, including, but not limited to cupping, curling, strapping, discoloration, leaf elongation, wrinkling, stunting, trumpeting, or twisting of exposed plants."

Greckel says in the suit that at least 180 acres were affected in June and July of 2017.

His lawsuit names as defendants Monsanto, BASF, DuPont and Pioneer Hi-Bred, all of which sell either herbicides containing dicamba or seed varieties that are resistant to it.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction against the companies to prevent them from continuing to sell products containing dicamba as well as actual and punitive damages and attorney fees and other costs.

Greckel did not cite a specific level of damages in the suit, although court documents do say actual damages are more than $75,000.

Jeff Neu, a Monsanto spokesman, said the company had not yet been served with the lawsuit but would review it in due course.

In a statement, Neu defended the use of dicamba.

"Our customers tell us they are experiencing outstanding weed control and achieving on-target applications across 50 million acres," he said, noting that, "Growers need this technology to fight tough-to-manage weeds on their fields.

A BASF spokeswoman said the company has no record of Greckel reaching out with his concerns, before the lawsuit. None of the other companies named in the suit could be reached for comment.

Dicamba-related complaints are up this year in Nebraska, although some of that could be attributed to an earlier-than-normal planting season resulting in herbicides being applied earlier, according to the Nebraska Department of Agriculture.

Agriculture Department spokeswoman Christin Kamm said the state has adopted two major changes prompted by the EPA: requiring special training for any applicator of soybean dicamba herbicides, and new restrictions intended to reduce herbicide drift.

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Reach the writer at 402-473-2647 or molberding@journalstar.com.

On Twitter @LincolnBizBuzz.

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Business editor/reporter

Matt Olberding is a Lincoln native and University of Nebraska-Lincoln graduate who has been covering business for the Journal Star since 2005.

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