Dicamba Damage Persists

Mikkel Pates reported yesterday at AgWeek Online that, “Farmers, agronomists and insurers in the region continue to wade through the troubled waters of soybean damage attributed to off-target drift damage from the herbicide dicamba.

“In 2017 major manufacturers commercialized new formulations of herbicides that only go with soybean varieties that were genetically-modified to be resistant to it. The makers specified a package of adjuvants, nozzles and instructions to keep it from ‘volatilizing’ or moving among fields once it is applied.

“The new chemistries cost hundreds of millions of dollars for manufacturers like Monsanto and BASF to develop. They were widely anticipated as a new ‘tool in the toolbox‘ to help cope with the increasing weed resistance to glyphosate, which often goes under its initial product name Roundup.”

The article noted that, “The North Dakota Department of Agriculture has a survey system that includes about 130 ‘reports’ but only 28 ‘complaints’ that trigger an investigation. None have been ‘closed,’ according to Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring.

As of Aug. 17, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture had received 214 complaints from 46 counties. The complaints that trigger investigations are not public until the investigations are complete. J.D. Farley, a South Dakota Department of Agriculture ag program specialist, said the department had 120 surveys filled out for dicamba damage in soybean areas east of the Missouri River, as of Aug. 16.”

Mr. Pates also pointed out that, “Losses aren’t covered in victim’s multi-peril crop insurance policies because it is a manmade loss. It isn’t clear whether the neighbors’ ‘property and casualty’ policies will cover losses. Companies and courts must sort out damage for things like stress from heat, drought nutrient or micronutrient deficiencies, and even soil types. Officials say it’s trickier than assessing damage from glyphosate which kills plants, rather than simply injuring them. Some privately speculate whether the situation seems ripe for a class-action lawsuit.

Goehring says some of the damage he’s seen occurred despite applicators apparently following the label. Goehring is urging farmers to collect leaf samples and have them tested in laboratories. His own staff does that and investigates application complaints by studying weather records and interviewing people, but determining fault doesn’t trigger compensation.

“Goehring already has informed a governmental affairs official from Monsanto that he’s considering his authorities and procedures for possibly adding state restrictions on the dicamba formulations for next year. He’s thinking of lowering the wind speed to 10 to 12 mph from the current 15 mph maximum or confining applications to mornings and early afternoons.”

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