Black Eye or Better Tools Depends on Users
The three companies with the most to gain and lose from problems arising with the new formulations argue that the risk of volatility is extremely low, thanks to new formulations. They suggested that drift potential is reduced with proper equipment and application if labels are followed. However, Dow AgroSciences, Monsanto, and BASF are quick to echo concern over potential misapplication.
"Spray drift is an area where the focus must be if injury to neighboring sensitive plants and crops is to be eliminated," said Luke Bozeman, technical market manager, BASF.
The three companies have significant investments in dicamba and 2,4-D-tolerant crop technology to protect. The success of dicamba and 2,4-D technologies at controlling and stemming the expansion of glyphosate-resistant weeds will also determine the perceived, continued value of existing Roundup-tolerant technology. Farmers and their input and service providers are equally invested in the new technologies. Glyphosate-resistant weeds were estimated to have spread or developed on more than 65 million acres by 2012, although this is a rough estimate that could be higher.
Grapes are particularly sensitive to auxin damage. It is how the new premixes are promoted that has Smith most concerned. He fears that without clear identification of what is and isn't permitted, commercial applicators and grower applicators in particular may assume that any formulation will do. SOCC has discussed this with the companies with, he suggested, mixed results.
"Dow did the right thing," said Smith. "They share our concern that generics are unsafe and are committed to make sure generics are not used with their system. They also agreed application was unsafe if any wind was blowing toward a sensitive crop."
He is more concerned about dicamba product positioning by Monsanto, suggesting that by referring only to low-volatility dicamba, growers may think any newer version is acceptable. He is adamant that even a product similar to Clarity would not be safe around sensitive crops.
Kim Magin, dicamba industry affairs lead, Monsanto, insisted that a farmer's license for the technology would restrict the most volatile formulations of dicamba. The company is coordinating with BASF on the eventual ultra-low rate Engenia. However, she stated the current formulation is safe if used properly. Where Monsanto and SOCC differ is what is proper. While Smith calls for no wind if sensitive crops are near by, she stipulated that lack of wind can signal an inversion, ideal for volatilization, thus the '3 to 10 mph' recommendation on Xtend products.