Black Eye or Better Tools Depends on Users
Magin acknowledged drift and volatility as issues deserving attention. "We've heard similar concerns from traditional row-crop producers, as well as specialty crop growers, and our research and product development groups have been addressing sources of off-site movement," said Magin. "We've focused on reducing the effect of particle drift with equipment, volatility with formulations and insufficient tank cleanout with triple rinsing of tanks. We also are developing a new tank deactivator that looks promising. All of these concerns will be addressed on the label."
Educating About Product Stewardship
All three have invested heavily in grower and dealer applicator education, such as BASF's On-Site Application Academy. Bozeman cites applicator training for part of the success of Status, a current dicamba product used in corn. In addition to training, BASF provided state-of-the-art, low-drift nozzles to applicators. Bozeman indicated this program would be expanded with the introduction of Engenia.
"The right formulation and the right application methods underpinned with education is our approach to stewardship with dicamba," said Bozeman. "When we brought out Clarity, it was an 80 percent improvement over Banvel in terms of volatility, and Engenia is to Clarity as Clarity was to Banvel."
He did acknowledge that misapplication of Engenia (as with any product) could result in spray drift-related damage to non-target plants. "The Ohio State University data (cited by SOCC) reinforces the importance of managing spray drift," said Bozeman. "We are spending a lot of energy developing clear label requirements on type of nozzle, spray particle size, deposition aids, wind speed and direction and identifying temperature inversions. All this is being done with one thing in mind, to control spray drift to sensitive crops."
Damon Palmer, commercial leader for Dow AgroScience's Enlist Weed Control System, said the company has worked with SOCC. While referencing the agreement between Dow AgroSciences and SOCC, Palmer emphasized stewardship is key to the success of these technologies. He pointed to efforts such as the company's Enlist 360 training at five regional technology centers, as well as on-farm trials in eight Midwestern states. He also emphasized the importance of communication within the industry and at the local level.
"When Save Our Crops Coalition raises concerns, it is important for us to understand what their concerns are," he said. "Reach out and talk to neighbors and communicate. Work with initiatives such as Field Watch that list organic and specialty growers."
"We all need to be serious about using these tools responsibly," said Magin. "We have to maintain the full utility of these weed fighting tools."
In the end, it will be the applicator, whether professional or farm-based, who will determine the success of these products and whether the crop protection industry has valuable new tools or a black eye. As Smith noted, the latter could open the door to even more regulation and oversight.
"If activists start questioning everything that goes on in a farmer's field, it could be dangerous," said Smith. "It is short-sighted to risk an entire technology."