>> A US government program designed to boost havens for honey bees and butterflies, has inadvertently led to the surge of a fast growing and dangerous weed that threatens to destroy fields of corn and soybeans in Iowa. Iowa farmers jumped into the Conservation Reserve Program last year, which pays farmers to set aside cropland for wildlife habitat as green prices were falling.
As part of the program, they planted special seed mixes, but soon found out some of those seeds were contaminated with a weed. The tall prickly Palmer amaranth native to the American southwest. Reuters correspondent, Renita Young traveled through Iowa talking to farmers.>> The Palmer amaranth weed grows inches a day, reaching up to about eight feet in height, with a stem thick enough to damage farm equipment.
So farmers and state agriculture officials say the best way to get rid of it is to pull it out of the ground by hand.>> Bob Hartzler of Iowa State University is an expert on weeds and says the Palmer amaranth is an especially difficult foe, because it's hard for farmers to distinguish it from other weeds in the early stages.
>> This is the stage where farmers should be spraying their weeds, but at this point in time, even these large ones here, there's no way of knowing which pig weed you're dealing with.>> While the Palmer amaranth in the Midwest have been found mostly in land set aside for conservation, the fear is if the weed goes unchecked, it could severely damage harvests, which would be a terrible hit for Iowa, which exports more than a billion dollars worth of corn and soybeans a year.