Black Eye or Better Tools Depends on Users
Talk about soon-to-be registered dicamba and 2,4-D products and the topic of crop injury potential from spray drift and volatility are sure to come up. Concerns from some segments of agriculture are significant enough that the USDA recently required environmental impact statements on crops tolerant to these products. Few have been more outspoken regarding these concerns than Save Our Crops Coalition (SOCC). Associations representing 2,000 commercial fruit and vegetable growers from Pennsylvania to Illinois, as well as processor associations and several individual food processors, are worried about potential damage to their crops and more, according to Steven Smith, SOCC chair.
"These products are a real concern to our industry, but I fear that all of agriculture could get a black eye," said Smith. "The effect of economic injury to a grower is one thing. When you destroy grandma's garden, you've got a real problem. Whether gardens or fields, the community acrimony of suing neighbors is not going to be a good thing."
As the director of agriculture, Red Gold, Inc., Smith is all too familiar with such lawsuits. As the world's largest privately owned tomato processor, Red Gold had six cases of spray drift damage in 2013, estimated to cost $228,750 in losses. Although most such cases are settled out of court, Smith fears losses and lawsuits from drift and volatility caused injury could skyrocket if dicamba products in particular are introduced under their current suggested labels.
SOCC cited a survey of state pesticide control officials listing 2,4-D as the product most involved in spray drift incidents every year the survey has been taken and dicamba as the third most common for two years in a row. SOCC also pointed to Ohio State University research showing simulated spray drift of 2,4-D and dicamba causing significant yield loss in tomatoes at spray drift levels 1/30th of a standard field rate. Smith added concern over volatilization potential from the market projections of 100 million acres of dicamba-treated crops, many of them contiguous.
"Data reviewed by the USDA was largely reflective of past use as a preplant burndown with limited exposure to other crops," he said. "If you get volatilization from multiple fields in an area, concentrations of vapors could get much higher than anyone expects. Post applications will occur in early June and later, the absolute perfect times for problems to occur from atmospheric conditions."
New Formulations Offer Less Volatility