Panel Discusses the Future of Dicamba


Dicamba drift damage has been, and continues to be, a huge story in agriculture. The big question is what does the future hold for the product? At a recent press conference hosted by DTN, University of Missouri weed scientist, Dr. Kevin Bradley says the damage done this past growing season was significant…

“I think we all recognize that there’s way more that actually happens that’s not turned into the Departments of Agriculture, so we felt like we wanted capture that, so, somewhere 3.5, 3.6 million acres is what the damage totaled in 2017.”
Bradley says there’s never been a problem like this in U.S. agriculture before. As proof of that, he cites research from Bob Hartzler at Iowa State University…

“Basically, it just goes to show, the lowest observable dose causes significant crop injury, and unfortunately, we have chose this technology and this herbicide, and I don’t know if you could pick a crop that’s more sensitive to dicamba than soybeans that aren’t Extend soybeans. 

“So, .005% of the labeled rated is recorded here in this graph….some work that we did years ago, and was eventually published, that 1/20,000th of the normal use rate.  And so, part of the challenge here is getting across in our heads, that there’s nothing like this, and there’s very low doses that causes a visual response in soybeans.”

While physical drift of the product itself has been a problem, improper tank cleaning has also been found to be an issue. It doesn’t take much leftover dicamba in the tank to do crop damage.

He says temperature inversions with a volatile product can cause drift, and Bradley says there shouldn’t be any more night time spraying of dicamba, which is part of the new label requirements.

Jean Payne is the president of the Illinois Chemical and Fertilizer Association. Going into 2018, she says it’s important for commercial applicators to remember that even if dicamba drift doesn’t necessarily put a huge dent in someone’s harvest results, it’s still a violation of law…

“If you are off target, it is a violation of federal and state law.  And these applicators in Illinois that get these warning letters they count on their record for a period of three years.  So, if you start accumulating too many warning letters, and that’s the lowest violation, is basically the Department of Ag warning you that you did something wrong, you can lose your license if you accumulate enough points.

“So, the people I work for, this is their livelihood, if you’re an operator with 15-20 years experience, and you take a lot of pride in your work, and still end up with five or six warning letters, and you can’t explain what you did wrong, those people are very troubled by that.  So, we have to work together as an industry and not fluff off that there wasn’t yield damage, and life is good.”

Jay Magnussen is a farmer and full-time agronomist in northwest Iowa. He says dicamba is not an easy product to use correctly. As an agronomist, he doesn’t want to spend time next summer walking through damaged fields. One way to move forward in the dicamba debate is communication between farmers…

“Like RoundUp, we’re not going to have every field in the neighborhood be RoundUp so we can pretty much let it spray everywhere.  We’re going to have to watch because we’re going to have conventional beans, we’re going to have guys that stay with Sureama beans for a while, so we’re going to have four different technology that we’re going to have be aware of and watch out for our neighbors.

“Here in northwest Iowa we had a really good adaptation to flagging our fields, there were four types of flags that were put next to fields, so that we could have farmers and their neighbors talk to each other, and know what was planted in the field, before making an application…a post application to control our weeds.”

It’s important for applicators to remember the new label requirements include training before the next spraying season begins.

A native of the Texas Panhandle, Rhonda was born and raised on a cotton farm where she saw cotton farming evolve from ditch irrigation to center pivot irrigation and harvest trailers to modules. After graduating from Texas Tech University, she got her start in radio with KGNC News Talk 710 in Amarillo, Texas.