Farm Progress

Beyond nozzle types, boom heights and wind speeds — Aaron Hager, University of Illinois, shares his thoughts on dicamba in 2018.

Jill Loehr, Associate Editor, Prairie Farmer

January 18, 2018

4 Min Read
APPLICATORS RESPONSIBLE: “There’s a whole new list of things that now, when off-target movement occurs, applicators can be held accountable,” says Aaron Hager, University of Illinois weed scientist.

The new in-season dicamba application requirements may seem daunting and confusing, but Aaron Hager, weed specialist at the University of Illinois, says one thing is crystal-clear. “The applicator is legally liable,” he says. “There’s a whole new list of things that now, when off-target movement occurs, applicators can be held accountable.”

With new labels, new rules and a new application season, Hager shares six things to keep in mind for 2018.

1. Dicamba will move in the right conditions. Dicamba is still dicamba, regardless of the formulation, Hager says, including XtendiMax, FeXapan and Engenia. Hager made this point several times in 2017, and the formulations haven’t changed for 2018. “They are ‘low’ volatility, not ‘no’ volatility,” Hager says. “And ‘low’ is a relative term.” University testing, which occurred concurrently in 2017 as the new formulations were first in use commercially, revealed the new formulations may volatilize two to three days after application.

2. Trainers may skip important information on volatility. In the new U.S. EPA-required training sessions, applicators will learn about wind speeds, wind directions, buffers and all the other updated label requirements, but Hager says they likely won’t discuss dicamba’s volatility. Training will vary by state, he adds, noting that the Illinois Department of Agriculture elected to have Monsanto, BASF and DowDuPont present Illinois’ training. Hager reviewed the slides and encouraged IDOA to include more information on dicamba’s volatility. Morgan Booth, IDOA’s public information officer, says the trainers have “enhanced the information on volatility.”

“Volatility as a factor of off-target movement is part of the training,” says Jean Payne, president of the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association. “Particularly, how the likelihood of volatility can increase if ammonium sulfate, nitrogen or improper tankmix partners are not carefully managed.”

3. The required buffers are not what you think they are for. Under the Endangered Species Act, EPA evaluates all pesticides for their potential impact on the environment, wildlife and vegetation.

“The buffer requirements have nothing to do with soybeans,” Hager says. “They are only there for endangered species.” EPA confirms this in an emailed statement: “The buffer requirements for applications of XtendiMax, Engenia and FeXapan are intended to protect sensitive endangered species and their habitat around the dicamba application area.”

If conditions are right and dicamba volatilizes, Hager says the 110-foot buffer is not enough to protect downwind susceptible crops.

4. A specific distance for downwind applications toward adjacent crops is not defined. “What does ‘adjacent’ mean?” Hager asks. “Is it 100 feet, a mile, or what?” The XtendiMax label states: “Do not apply this product when the wind is blowing toward adjacent non-dicamba tolerant susceptible crops; this includes non-dicamba tolerant soybeans and cotton.” The label does not specify how close, or how far, the adjacent field can be for an on-label application.

IDOA interprets adjacent to mean beyond “side by side” but doesn’t clarify specific distances. The agency recommends applicators survey the field for neighboring nontarget, susceptible crops and the local topography before deciding whether to spray or not. Hager adds that with a 3 mph wind speed minimum, applicators will always need to consider what’s downwind.

“Unfortunately, there is no hard-and-fast definition,” Payne says. “So like many things in the life of an applicator, you have to make that decision, on that day, based on what you know about the surrounding areas.”

5. Dicamba training isn’t new. The industry and IDOA are putting a lot of faith in training and education for 2018, but Hager says there was already significant training prior to the 2017 application season.

BASF offered the On Target Application Academy and free approved nozzles. The IFCA communicated application requirements and consequences of off-target movement. Ag publications, including Prairie Farmer, shared label requirements and tips from application experts. Training was not required in 2017, but extensive educational efforts were made by universities, associations and chemical companies.

Hager’s take, despite the education? “Look what happened.”

6. Off-target herbicide damage goes beyond the yield monitor. In 2017, Hager fielded interview requests from national media outlets, including Reuters and CNN. “Those are interviews I don’t want to do,” he explains, adding he didn’t know what spin would end up in print or on the air. Dicamba clearly caught national headlines in 2017, and Hager worries about what product or practice will take the spotlight next. “When the environmental groups fire up in 2018, they won’t care about soybeans,” he says. “They’ll care about all the dicamba floating around and all the other things farmers are doing.”

Check back tomorrow for university recommendations to help reduce off-site dicamba movement.

About the Author(s)

Jill Loehr

Associate Editor, Prairie Farmer, Loehr

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