ONTARIO, Ore. — Scotts Miracle-Gro Co. is reporting significant progress in eliminating genetically engineered creeping bentgrass plants from Malheur and Jefferson counties in Oregon.
“We’re making a tremendous dent in the population of bentgrass right now,” said Danielle Posch, a senior research specialist with Scotts.
She was hired by Scotts in March to coordinate efforts to control the plant with local farmers, ranchers and irrigation districts.
The creeping bentgrass was genetically engineered by Scotts and Monsanto Corp. to withstand applications of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer, which makes it hard to kill.
It took root in Malheur and Jefferson counties after escaping field trials in 2003 and some farmers worry the plants could clog irrigation ditches and affect shipments of crops to nations that don’t accept traces of genetically modified organisms.
Malheur County farmer Dan Andersen said Scotts is making real progress in controlling the plant.
“They’re doing a good job of staying right on top of it,” said Andersen, co-chairman of a working group of farmers, irrigation district representatives and others that was created in Malheur County to coordinate with Scotts in its continuing efforts to try to control the plant.
East Oregon farmer Bruce Corn, a member of the Owyhee Irrigation District’s board of directors, agrees.
He said he used to have several of the plants on his property “but it’s really hard to find one on my place now. There’s definite progress. I think so far Scotts is doing a pretty good job on it.”
Andersen is not overly hopeful the plant will ever be eradicated from the area, “but I think we’ll be able to get to a point where it’s minor and very manageable,” he said. “But we’re still going to have to be vigilant keeping an eye out for it and not letting our guard down.”
Posch said efforts to fight the plant were provided a significant boost earlier this year when EPA approved a special local need label for Reckon, an herbicide that is effective in controlling the bentgrass.
The special label will allow growers and irrigation districts to spray glufosinate, the active ingredient in Reckon and the most effective herbicide for killing the bentgrass, over water during the growing season.
That chemical previously could only be used over waterways, such as canals, during a short period before the beginning of the growing season or after canals were dry.
The plants weren’t growing during those times which made it harder to kill them because they didn’t take up the chemical, Posch said.
Being able to use Reckon over waterways during the entire year is a game-changer in efforts to combat the GE creeping bentgrass, Posch said.
“In my opinion, it’s a godsend,” Andersen said.
Scotts has also started a voucher program that provides growers with the plant on their property with free, 2.5-gallon containers of Reckon.
For more information about that program, contact Posch by email at email@example.com.