With new herbicide technologies on the horizon along with new methods and guidance on how to apply them better, it appears Georgia cotton farmers now more than ever want to know what they can do to stay on-target with pesticide sprays.
The second week in February, organizers made an initial rollout of “Using Pesticides Wisely,” a training growers and pesticide applicators will likely be required to take before they can use the new dicamba herbicide formulations from Monsanto or BASF over the top of dicamba-tolerant cotton being offered by Monsanto. The number of farmers attending the training surprised organizers.
The one-hour training took place at eight locations in Georgia’s cotton-growing region. Organizers hoped to get a total of 500 farmers across all meetings. They ended up registering more than 1,300, which also included consultants and other agribusiness professionals, said Stanley Culpepper, University of Georgia Extension weed specialist who developed and gave the training.
Culpepper has conducted research on preventing off-target pesticide movement in Georgia for more than six years, much of it in anticipation of the new auxin seed traits and herbicides coming to market. He spent six months developing this specific training, which is an 80-percent focus on off-target pesticide movement and ways to prevent it, and 20 percent specifically on the new dicamba technology.
Points in the training included spray tips, spray pressure, sprayer speed, boom height and sprayer cleanout, along with wind and terrain considerations when applying pesticides, proper herbicide formulations, drift control agents, residue tolerance and understanding the herbicide footprint. The protection of endangered species and the prevention of additional herbicide resistance were also discussed.
"Our objective with these trainings was to share the latest research with growers in an effort to assist them with making on-target pesticide applications. These trainings will fulfill the requirement that growers need before using dicamba-tolerant technologies by Monsanto or BASF. Unfortunately, these trainings will not fulfill the requirements to use 2,4-D-tolerant technologies. Our hope had been to train growers for both dicamba and 2,4-D technologies simultaneously, but we were not successful in getting Dow AgroScience (which will offer the 2,4-D technology) to join us … maybe next time."
The Georgia Department of Agriculture and Monsanto joined UGA Extension in organizing and facilitating the trainings. “There has truly been an unprecedented amount of cooperation between a regulating entity, the company commercializing technologies, and the organization providing science-based trainings; something I’ve never seen before,” Culpepper said.
In March 2014, the Georgia Department of Agriculture, or GDA, coordinated an auxin summit, bringing industry representatives, growers groups, Georgia Farm Bureau, product registrants and UGA together to discuss the new dicamba and 2,4-D technologies coming to Georgia, said Tommy Gray, head of the GDA Plant Industry Division, at the Southeast Regional Fruit and Vegetable Conference in January.
Bigger fines on the way
From that Georgia auxin summit it was agreed, “That we needed stronger penalties here in Georgia if you misuse a pesticide,” Gray said. “And that training (on the new auxin technologies) must happen. It is not an option not to have it, and the training needs to be down to the applicator level.”
At this time, the monetary fine for misusing a pesticide is $1,000 per offense in Georgia, Gray said. But the GDA is looking to change that to a maximum $10,000 per violation, which it feels will better deter mishandling pesticides; that fine value is consistent with other penalties the department currently has, such as with food safety and structural pest control violations. The Georgia General Assembly would have to pass a bill to approve the penalty increase, and that could occur this year.
The new dicamba and 2,4-D products, Gray said, are not restricted-use pesticides. Applicators are not required, legally, to be certified to use them or get continuing education such as with private or commercial certified pesticide applicator credits. The GDA is wrestling with the best way to make the auxin-specific trainings required. The department has options on how to do this, and state law allows the department to restrict the technologies at the state level.
Culpepper said the recent trainings were a rollout of what could be more one-on-one trainings with applicators in the future by UGA Extension. Surveys were conducted at each location. Across the board, nearly all farmers who attended the training felt it was worth their time, and the information provided would help them or their employees avoid off-target pesticide movement. Many wanted the training offered again so they could send more employees to it. Plans are to provide the training in more locations, possibly in March.
Monsanto will launch in 2015 a new cotton seed trait tolerant to over-the-top applications of Roundup, Liberty, registered residuals and the Monsanto and BASF new dicamba formulations. Growers can spray Roundup and Liberty on this cotton in 2015, but not dicamba. Registration by the Environmental Protection Agency is still pending for the new formulations.