Ag. Tech Company Claims Aerial Pesticide Harmed Crops

In a complaint filed in the District of Arizona on Friday, Calyxt, Inc., an agriculture technology company, claimed its high fiber wheat crops in two fields were harmed by aerial application of herbicides meant for leaf lettuce crops in November 2019 by the defendants.

The complaint said the lawsuit is “based on the unlawful acts of aerial applicators, their pest control advisors, and produce growers who recklessly undertook the aerial application of chemical herbicides near fields where Calyxt was growing highly valuable wheat crops susceptible to those herbicides.”

Calyxt, represented by Ballard Spahr LLP, claimed the damages which “far exceeds $75,000.00” were “entirely foreseeable” because the herbicide is meant to kill grasses including wheat. The defendants in the case include Amigo Farms Inc., D’Arrigo Brother’s Company, pest control advisors Jeffrey Nigh and Johnhenry Luke, and Morris Ag Air & Sons Inc.

Calyxt develops plant-based options for healthier, sustainable eating. The company is growing wheat as a response to increased interest in consumers for high fiber diets, according to the complaint. The company selected the two fields in Arizona because of the area’s climate and growing conditions. The plants were a continuation of a multi-year project which needs seeds from the crops to continue.

“Calyxt’s ability to achieve its development milestones and commercialization of its HFW products depends on obtaining enough seeds from among the many different lines in this planting,” the complaint stated, claiming the yield from the fields was “severely reduced” because of herbicide damages.

The plaintiff claimed the farms, aerial herbicide companies, and pest control advisors are liable for the damages caused to its high fiber wheat crops. They claim the drift would not happen if the defendants were cautious and followed aerial herbicide and pesticide laws and the defendants should have known the wheat crops would be harmed by the herbicide.

“Defendants breached their duty by, among other improper actions, failing to select or provide proper advice concerning an appropriate pesticide or chemical mix; failing to add proper thickening agents to the pesticide chemical being sprayed; making improper changes to the applicator nozzle configurations or settings; failing to investigate neighboring fields and susceptible crops growing thereon; failing  to have the proper spotters for identifying nearby hazards; disregarding local weather conditions  (e.g., a temperature inversion); undertaking an improper flight path; and/or applying the herbicide at an improper time of day,” the complaint stated.