Dicamba Damage- Complaints Snowballing

Some thought this year would be different.

Last year, when illegal usage of the drift-prone herbicide dicamba was blamed for widespread crop damage across southeastern Missouri and other states — and is even suspected of triggering deadly feuds between farmers — many expressed hope that the problem would diminish in future growing seasons, with proper forms of the herbicide gaining approval for use on crops engineered to tolerate the spray.

But that may have been wishful thinking, if the recent explosion of 242 cases of alleged dicamba misuse in Arkansas is any indication. Amid the snowballing number of complaints in the state, the Arkansas State Plant Board proposed an emergency ban of the chemical for in-crop use Friday.”

Mr. Gray noted that, “Leading the way with 81 complaints is Mississippi County, Ark., which borders Missouri’s Bootheel, where most of the region’s cases were concentrated last year. Those in the Bootheel, meanwhile, are waiting to see if a similar crisis unfolds once again. The area’s growing season lags a bit behind that in Arkansas, and it wasn’t until late last June that local dicamba complaints began to surface.

“But Kevin Bradley, a University of Missouri plant sciences professor who investigated much of last year’s damage, says he’s been fielding complaints of crop injury over the past couple of weeks, while the Missouri Department of Agriculture has received 60 reports of misuse so far, statewide. Last year, more than 120 cases of suspected drift were reported to Missouri officials.

“Bradley says continued damage from the herbicide this year would be a predictable consequence of so many farmers converting to dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton — many of whom did so to avoid the damage suffered last year.”

The Post-Dispatch article indicated that, “The volatile chemical is sensitive to vaporizing and drifting into nearby fields where nonresistant crop varieties are vulnerable to injury. Last year, much of the damage was believed to have been caused by renegade farmers who illegally sprayed older, highly volatile versions of the chemical on Monsanto’s dicamba-tolerant soybean and cotton, which the company released prior to regulatory approval of the corresponding herbicide.

“Though growers were warned not to apply ‘off-label’ or unauthorized forms of dicamba, many appeared to do so to combat weeds that have developed resistance to other herbicides like glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup.

“This year, newly approved dicamba products from Monsanto and BASF aimed to offer farmers less-volatile alternatives to use with resistant seed varieties. But even those could be triggering at least some of the complaints.”

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