Texas Cotton growers, who produce more cotton than any state in the nation, may get relief from a growing pigweed problem if the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) agrees to an emergency request for the use of propazine on 3 million cotton acres across the state.

Texas Department of Agriculture (TDA) officials have asked EPA for an emergency permit to use the herbicide to help cotton producers stave off the growth of  Palmer amaranth, which potentially threatens substantial crop losses this season.

The invasive pigweed has demonstrated a growing glyphosate-resistance problem in recent years and now threatens the Texas cotton industry. According to the U.S. Agriculture Department (USDA), the Texas cotton crop last year was valued at $5.2 billion.

Palmer amaranth, or pigweed, has gained its super weed reputation for good reason. It has been known to grow as much as three inches in a single day and to a height exceeding 10 feet under the right circumstances. With such a hefty growth rate, weed scientists say it robs the soil of nutrients rapidly, killing root systems of other crops and can even be damaging to farm equipment. In addition, propagation of seeds for a single plant can reach into the thousands, creating a tidal wave of infestation in a field within a short period of time.

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Propazine is very similar to atrazine, the primary ingredient in Milo-Pro, an EPA approved herbicide limited for use in grain sorghum in Texas and a number of other states. Milo-Pro is produced by Iowa-based Albaugh Inc.

EPA officials say propazine is not a new chemical. It was used extensively beginning in the 1950s but EPA cancelled registration in 1988 after chemical companies failed to provide data for a groundwater monitoring study.