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Best herbicide drift education begins at grassroots level

Susan Scott, Lonoke County (Ark.) Extension agent and her co-workers are to be commended for declaring Feb. 12-16 as Drift Education week in their county.

This is the first such effort at the local level that I am aware of. She coordinated an excellent drift education meeting with the title “Keep it in the Field”.

During her presentation she used the catchy phrase, “Remember — Good Crops, Good Environment, Good Neighbors.” The entire program was excellent and included several outstanding presentations and speakers.

The overall concept was simply someone at the grassroots level taking a very real problem and attempting to make a difference. I hope others in the public and private sectors will follow suit.

The drift issues we face cannot all be solved by regulations or by the “government.” I served on the glyphosate task force which worked very hard to come up with some practical solutions to the glyphosate drift problem. I learned very quickly that regardless of the solutions we develop, some people will not like them or at least parts of them.

After that, politics invariably get involved and that is usually when the wheels come off.

People getting involved at the grassroots level can get around a lot of that and make a real difference.

The drift problem is not one dimensional. It is an applicator problem, a farmer problem, a basic industry problem, an education problem and a regulatory problem. It is going to take everyone working together to solve it and I hope a lot of people follow Susan Scott's lead.

This coming season, we will not only have rice to worry about with glyphosate, but also conventional corn and grain sorghum. With the increase in acres, there is not enough Roundup Ready corn to satisfy demand. You cannot assume a field is Roundup Ready corn. It may be conventional corn or it may also be grain sorghum.

Sometimes when I use terms like “poor judgment” or “misinformed,” do not feel that I am being personally critical. All of us occasionally get overconfident in our abilities.

I distinctly remember when we were doing some of the tank mix studies for the Command aerial label, we sprayed the north half of a large no-till rice field with a preemergence application of Roundup and Command. There was a slight north wind and an emerged rice field a distance away to the south, so we stopped, leaving the south half unsprayed. At that point we had made great decisions.

The next day we ran a couple of other tank mix studies in other fields and when we finished, the farmer who owned the field where we had put the Roundup and Command asked if we would run a test with his different glyphosate product and Command on the south half so his entire field would be sprayed. We agreed and all discussed that the wind was getting up out of the south.

In my heart I knew it was too windy, but we fell into the trap of wanting to finish, thinking we were good enough to pull it off. After all, we were starting on the south side of the field and it was over a half mile to the nearest emerged rice to the north.

I volunteered to walk the turn row a quarter mile away from where the nearest pass would be made. It looked like the spray was laying down great, and I never felt or smelled a thing.

Luckily, the emerged rice to the north belonged to the same farmer and he called me a week later because he thought he had lespedeza worms in the field. Well when I got there, instead of lespedeza worms, he had glyphosate drift worms and I was sick.

The drift had come from our spraying a half mile away and went another half mile. The only reason it stopped was it hit the woods and there was no more rice for a couple of miles. That was terrible judgment on my part.

Luckily the rice recovered and the farmer was good-natured about it. So, when I lecture to you, I have been there.

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