Dicamba Issues: A Top Ag News Story in 2017

DTN writer Pam Smith reported today that, “Farmers may have had dicamba in their weed arsenal for more than 50 years, but the agronomic tool took a divisive turn in 2017.

Unprecedented complaints of injury to sensitive crops were recorded across the U.S. during the first full year of the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System, despite new, lower-volatility dicamba formulations and education campaigns on how to reduce spray drift.

“In October, a survey of Extension weed specialists estimated off-site movement of dicamba had injured 3.6 million acres of soybeans. Officially, there were 2,708 dicamba-related injury cases under investigation by various state departments of agriculture. Included in those cases were complaints that dicamba injured vegetable and fruit crops, trees and homeowner landscapes.”

Ms. Smith explained that, “Many had hoped the long list of complex restrictions the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) placed on the Engenia, FeXapan and XtendiMax labels would help applicators keep the herbicide on-target. At the same time, the weed science community voiced stern warnings that those labels did nothing to address the inherently volatile nature of dicamba.

“As complaints of cupped and puckered leaves characteristic of dicamba injury started to mount in June and July, states such as Arkansas, Missouri and Tennessee, took action to temporarily restrict or ban applications.”

Today’s DTN article added that, “Who is liable for the loss associated with injury is also adding to the drama — both from the farmer and retailer applicator perspective. Recent issues with dicamba spray drift have highlighted the need for producers to understand third-party liability associated with all herbicide applications, said University of Missouri Extension economist Ray Massey.

Product labels for 2018 labels also are so restrictive that the window for making legal applications could be very narrow. A Purdue University report during the December North Central Weed Science Society meeting calculated an applicator had 184 hours to spray XtendiMax or FeXapan during June 2017. Using the new 2018 label restrictions, and identical weather patterns, applicators will have only 44 hours to spray next June.

Some individual states were also taking additional measures beyond federal labels as farmers were headed into seed selection season. In Arkansas, where the dialogue has been most heated, Monsanto and some farmers have been legally pushing for broader market access to dicamba. Legislators agreed in December and kicked a proposal to ban most in-season use back to the Arkansas State Plant Board for further consideration.”

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