Two sessions at the ARA Conference and Expo were dedicated to discussing a big issue in agriculture—dicamba. In 2017, it’s been calculated 3.6 million acres of soybeans had damage from dicamba.
As the industry heads into 2018, retailers are getting ready to help farmers avoid a similar result in 2018.
The first session at the conference featured independent consultant Ford Baldwin of Austin, Ark., and Stanley Culpepper with University of Georgia Extension. These two presenters gave their first-hand accounts of the 2017 season—what went wrong and what went right.
In Arkansas, Baldwin says 2016 gave a pretty good sneak peek at what could happen, and then starting in early May of 2017, he started to receive calls of suspected off-target movement of dicamba. Just two weeks later, things changed—for the worse.
“What we saw was real, and we didn’t sensationalize it,” Baldwin says. “It was a landscape effect that was so uniform it was hard to believe without seeing.”
Baldwin attributes the dicamba damage to one or all of these six things, which must all be corrected going forward:
- Blantant label violations
- Honest label violations
- Spraying in inversions
- Sprayer contamination
- Herbicide contaminations
- Illegal formulations
“I had a very empty feeling leaving the meeting after the April 15 cutoff passed,” he says. “Because I don’t know a single weed scientist that doesn’t want to find a solution.”
Baldwin cautions that more education and training aren’t going to fix inversions and plant sensitivity.
He also warns at the scope of the problem as application of dicamba continues to expand.
“I think this happened in Arkansas for a couple of reasons, and one of which is that we grow both soybeans and cotton,” Baldwin says.
For example, in Mississippi county in northern Arkansas, 64% of the land mass in the county is in cotton or soybeans. 67% of the cotton was sprayed twice; and 42% of the soybeans were sprayed once. Estimates are that 39% of the county’s land mass was sprayed with dicamba.
Despite the injury reports, Baldwin says the growing conditions of 2017 overcome any damage and farmers harvested 70 to 80 bu. soybeans.
While Arkansas led the country with the most reported dicamba industry claims, Georgia totaled none. Stanley Culpepper from University of Georgia attributes that to four things: experience; cooperation; Using Pesticides Wisely training and environmental conditions.
“No question, we were successful because our growers made good decisions,” he says. “I had a farmer call me from the headland, and he wasn’t able to start the spray pass. He was simply scared. But when I asked him, he said he was ready to make the best pesticide application he ever made.”
Culpepper says the state-wise required Using Pesticides Wisely program as well as the 411 one-on-one applicator trainings with Extension are to credit for reinforcing the successful application of dicamba.
He also attributes an awareness of the neighbor’s surrounding crops, many of which are high value fresh produce or specialty crops, as raising the stakes and helping deter any questionable applications.
“Not only have we dealt with crop diversity, but growers in our state have also always dealt with herbicides and defoliants too,” he says.
The state has also regulated the sale of dicamba to only include the new formulations, which Culpepper reports 98% of growers are supportive of only using the new formulations.
“We’ve explained to growers that this is on a different scale, and they have to be better than they’ve ever been,” he says. “Identifying where you should not apply these products is more important than identifying where you should.”
But even with the reports of the success of 2017 in Georgia, Culpepper is cautious about 2018. “Growers could be getting over confident,” he says. And he notes that the pressures farmers are facing today. “We are facing two freight trains: stewardship and weed management program.”
Gary Schmitz, BASF, Midwest region chemical service manager at BASF says the company saw six buckets for causes in dicamba injury:
- Buffer zone less than label
- Wind speed too high
- Inversion was present
- Wrong nozzle
- Boom height too high
- Spray thank contamination
Schmitz says those factors dramatically increase the risk of drift.
“If you use the wrong nozzle, it can cause a 66x drift increase,” he says. He also explains when boom height is 48” instead of 24” from the target, drift is increased by 5.6x. The incorrect wind speed can increase drift 3.4x. And if an applicator sprays during a temperature inversion the risk increases 6x, and it’s unpredictable which direction the drift will move.
With many factors determining the success of a dicamba application, Schmitz says applicators should understand all of the factors without skipping any.
“Weak links in the system can lead to issues with the application. You really have to go back and do a thorough job of understanding where the weak link is in the system,” he says.
Schmitz puts it simply, “If there’s a sensitive species down wind, it’s a do not spray situation.”
In addition to those changes, representatives with Monsanto and BASF say the companies will provide additional training and support throughout 2018.
Ty Witten with Monsanto says the focus for the company in 2018 to support successful dicamba application covers three things: training on best management practices; reinforcing good sprayer hygiene practices and offering any training and assistance needed.
“I’d be the first to say that I have learned a lot about temperature inversions,” says Ty Witten with Monsanto. “And everyone should learn that when spraying dicamba sprayer clean out is a big deal.”
Witten says Monsanto aims to provide training and nozzle tips for anyone who needs them to successfully apply dicamba. The company will support its technical call center, which in 2017 receive more than 3,800 calls about dicamba injury complaints. Witten also notes Monsanto will launch an app to help applicators understand the conditions for a temperature inversion.