Off-label use of dicamba in 2016 was documented by EPA in at least 10 states.
Off-label use of dicamba in 2016 was documented by EPA in at least 10 states.

To date, several dozen states have the green light from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for use of the new dicamba formulations, BASF Engenia and Monsanto XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology. Monsanto has also licensed its product to DuPont, which is  marketing it as FeXapan with VaporGrip.

These new products work well when used as part of a comprehensive, weed-control program in dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton. That’s how they’re designed and how the industry needs to use them. Be assured–you will have problems if these products aren’t used according to their respective labels.    

That’s not just my opinion. It’s what university Extension weed scientists, regulatory authorities, manufacturers, retailers and farmers are telling me, based on their first-hand observations, experience and research last season.

Unfortunately, the use of dicamba off-label was not uncommon in 2016. By last August, EPA had registered complaints from 10 states. As a result, some states are issuing guidelines and laws to govern dicamba use—that are more restrictive than what EPA allows—this coming season. Here’s a handful of examples.

Arkansas: The state is limiting in-season dicamba applications, between April 15 and Sept. 15, to Engenia only. “The ban includes the use of all older dicamba formulations as well,” says Bob Scott, University of Arkansas Extension weed scientist. “We want people to understand what they’re getting into with these (new) products,” he adds. “Don’t get caught up in the hype of this technology. There are benefits and drawbacks."

Indiana: The state Pesticide Review Board wants to adopt a restricted use pesticide (RUP) classification rule for all products containing at least 6.5% dicamba, so only certified applicators would be able to purchase and spray them, says Dave Scott, pesticide administrator for the Office of Indiana State Chemist.

“We have a lot of Red Gold tomatoes, specialty crops, and residential gardens and ornamentals here that dicamba can affect that we want to protect,” Scott says.

If passed, the Indiana rule would restrict the sale and distribution of both existing and new formulations of dicamba to registered RUP dealers. However, given the timing, the rule won’t be approved in time for this coming season, he notes.

Missouri. Farmer and state Rep. Don Rone (R-Portageville) is proposing three bills he hopes will help prevent problems like those that occurred in the Bootheel region last summer. One of the bills, H.R. 662, would increase the current fine for off-label dicamba applications from $1,000 per field to $1,000 per acre.

North Carolina. The state has approved special local need (SLN) labels. SLNs differ from the federal supplemental dicamba labels EPA approved for the new formulations in two ways, notes Alan York, North Carolina State University Extension weed specialist emeritus. First, maximum wind speed at application is limited to 10 mph in all scenarios. Second, SLNs require mandatory training for people responsible for applications. There are 38 training sessions now underway across the state.

Retailers and farmers have an important role to play in how the new dicamba formulations, and older products as well, are used. At the end of 2018, the EPA will either let the supplemental product labels for the new formulations expire or extend their registrations for an additional three years. 

Now's the time to read product labels, talk with manufacturers and learn what your respective state specifies before application season begins. Please do your part to steward this technology, so we have access to these weed-control tools in the years ahead.

Editor's Note: This editorial will appear in the March issue of AgPro Magazine.