BASF to Boost Dicamba Output 50% for New Monsanto Crops

BASF SE, the world’s biggest chemical maker, plans to produce 50 percent more dicamba weedkiller in Texas to keep pace with anticipated demand from a new generation of genetically modified crops.

A factory in Beaumont that can make 8,500 metric tons of dicamba a year will be expanded by at least half, Markus Heldt, president of the crop-protection unit at Ludwigshafen, Germany-based BASF, said today by phone. The addition will open next year as part of 200 million euros ($270 million) of investments by the company in Texas and Missouri, he said.

BASF, which has made dicamba for half a century, is preparing for a sales bump should St. Louis-based Monsanto Co. win regulatory approval to sell soybeans and cotton it engineered to survive exposure to the herbicide. Monsanto, the world’s largest seed producer, plans to add the technology to its Roundup Ready crops, which tolerate Roundup herbicide, because Roundup is failing to kill a growing number of weeds.

Some vegetable and fruit growers represented by the Save Our Crops Coalition oppose dicamba-tolerant crops because increased use of the chemical is “highly likely” to drift onto their crops and cause significant damage, the group said in a Feb. 20 letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

BASF’s Texas factory will produce a version of dicamba, branded Engenia, that’s reformulated to reduce the likelihood that non-target plants will be harmed, Nevin McDougall, a senior vice president, said in the phone interview.

Dow Chemical Co. is building a factory in Freeport, Texas, to produce the weedkiller 2,4-D in anticipation of approval for its new line of herbicide-tolerant crops, called Enlist.

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