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Illinois cuts off dicamba application at June 30Illinois cuts off dicamba application at June 30

In response to record injury documentation, the Illinois Department of Agriculture has issued dicamba use restrictions in addition to the federal EPA label.

Holly Spangler

March 1, 2019

5 Min Read
soybean plant with dicamba damage
RESTRICTED: In formulating a new set of restrictions for dicamba use in Illinois, Ag Director John Sullivan says he convened farmers and experts from the Illinois Farm Bureau, IL Corn, Illinois Soybean, the University of Illinois and the environmental community.

The Illinois Department of Agriculture has announced it will require additional restrictions on 2019 over-the-top dicamba use with a Special Local Needs label. That label imposes limitations beyond federal EPA restrictions, including a June 30 cutoff date.

“We want to do what we think is best and fair and still allow other producers out there to have the access to that product,” says John Sullivan, director of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, referencing exponentially higher numbers of dicamba herbicide complaints the past two years. “We’ve got to see those complaints come down. We have to.”

IDOA notified BASF, Bayer and DuPont/Corteva of the additional restrictions on Feb. 15. They include:

• a June 30 cutoff date for application of dicamba to dicamba-tolerant soybeans this year

• prohibited application when wind is blowing toward adjacent residential areas

• required consultation of the FieldWatch sensitive crop registry before application, plus compliance with all record-keeping label requirements

• maintain label-specified downwind buffer between last treated row and nearest downfield edge of Illinois Nature Preserves Commission sites

• recommend applying product when wind is blowing away from sensitive areas, which include but are not limited to bodies of water and nonresidential, uncultivated areas that may harbor sensitive plant species

IDOA says the intent is to reduce potential for off-target movement of dicamba formulations, including Engenia, XtendiMax, and FeXapan, and “thereby reduce potential for possible adverse impacts to dicamba-sensitive crops/areas.” The department received and investigated 330 dicamba-related complaints in 2018 and 246 in 2017. Dicamba was first licensed for over-the-top use in 2017.

“If we go into 2019 and see that number continue at that level, my concern is there will be an unbelievable amount of pressure to take that product [dicamba] off the market,” Sullivan says. “We don’t want that to happen. If those numbers don’t come down, we may all be sitting in front of a committee asking us to justify what we’re doing.”

Agronomist Karen Corrigan, McGillicuddy Corrigan Agronomics, says the cutoff date will help deter applications on double-crop soybeans, when temperatures are typically higher.

“That’s a positive. The rest will depend on Mother Nature. If she skips May like last year, it may not decrease the damage,” Corrigan says.

Retail reaction
Retail reaction to the additional restrictions has been positive.

“IFCA has supported a cutoff date for the past two years, so we applaud this move by the department, and we’re glad to be able to help provide input in this 24(c) label,” says Jean Payne, Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association. The Special Local Needs label that IDOA has enacted falls under Section 24(c) of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA), which states can use to pass more restrictive rules on federal pesticide labels.

For several years, Payne and her organization have proactively sought additional education and worked with farmers and retailers regarding the possible adverse impacts of dicamba use. A hard cutoff date makes it easier for retailers to stay in compliance.

“Even with the mandatory dicamba training, applicators were looking for more guidance on identifying sensitive areas, so these new labels also help better define sensitive areas and provide consistency among all three products to protect sensitive areas,” she says.

Payne says violating these new provisions of use in Illinois may be considered a “knowing” violation of the label, resulting in substantial monetary penalties or potential revocation of the applicator’s license. IFCA is advising its members to take the new label seriously. 

Bayer’s Kyel Richard says many of Illinois’ label changes expand on language already included on the EPA label. “We’re pleased that Illinois growers will once again experience the weed control benefits of XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology.”

Sullivan says IDOA considered both weather and calendar restrictions, but landed on a date restriction.

“Temperature would be one way to look at it, but trying to regulate and manage the temperature and the fluctuations in temperature and wind is just extremely difficult,” he says. “It’s not that it can’t be done, but it still would be difficult to regulate it.”

Sullivan says they also considered but ruled out a tiered cutoff date, given that temperature can fluctuate a great deal from north to south in Illinois on a given date.

“You have farmers and applicators that are across those lines, and can you really say, ‘On this side of that line, it’s this date, and on that side, it’s another date’?” Sullivan asks. “That presents its own problems.”

State lines
All eyes may be on Illinois for 2019.

“I’m told there are a number of states that are watching to see what Illinois does,” Sullivan says. “We’re a leader in corn and soybean production, so I think if we make a decision to do something, some of the other states would take heed and might follow suit. They may not, too.”

Illinois is the first state in the lower Midwest to enact an application cutoff date for 2019 on over-the-top use of dicamba. North and South Dakota have both filed for a June 30 cutoff as well, under the Special Needs Label; they had the same restriction in 2018. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture set a cutoff date of June 20, which follows its 2018 restrictions. As of press time, Missouri, Iowa and Indiana are all sticking with federal label guidelines, with no additional restrictions, though Indiana is changing its reporting strategies and looking closely at changes for 2020. 

While Arkansas originally banned the use of dicamba from April 16 through Oct. 31, the state plant board last month decided to allow use through May 25. Additional restrictions impose a half-mile buffer around sensitive areas such as research stations, organic crops, specialty crops and non-dicamba-tolerant soybeans.

“The bottom line is that dicamba has been a very effective product, it has done a good job, and we don’t want to see it removed from the market,” Sullivan says. “We want it to be a tool they can use.

“If we have to take some steps and make some decisions that we know not everybody’s going to agree with, well, that’s part of being in a leadership position.”

About the Author(s)

Holly Spangler

Senior Editor, Prairie Farmer, Farm Progress

Holly Spangler has covered Illinois agriculture for more than two decades, bringing meaningful production agriculture experience to the magazine’s coverage. She currently serves as editor of Prairie Farmer magazine and Executive Editor for Farm Progress, managing editorial staff at six magazines throughout the eastern Corn Belt. She began her career with Prairie Farmer just before graduating from the University of Illinois in agricultural communications.

An award-winning writer and photographer, Holly is past president of the American Agricultural Editors Association. In 2015, she became only the 10th U.S. agricultural journalist to earn the Writer of Merit designation and is a five-time winner of the top writing award for editorial opinion in U.S. agriculture. She was named an AAEA Master Writer in 2005. In 2011, Holly was one of 10 recipients worldwide to receive the IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Ag Journalism award. She currently serves on the Illinois Fairgrounds Foundation, the U of I Agricultural Communications Advisory committee, and is an advisory board member for the U of I College of ACES Research Station at Monmouth. Her work in agricultural media has been recognized by the Illinois Soybean Association, Illinois Corn, Illinois Council on Agricultural Education and MidAmerica Croplife Association.

Holly and her husband, John, farm in western Illinois where they raise corn, soybeans and beef cattle on 2,500 acres. Their operation includes 125 head of commercial cows in a cow/calf operation. The family farm includes John’s parents and their three children.

Holly frequently speaks to a variety of groups and organizations, sharing the heart, soul and science of agriculture. She and her husband are active in state and local farm organizations. They serve with their local 4-H and FFA programs, their school district, and are active in their church's youth and music ministries.

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