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Dicamba 101: What you need to know for 2021Dicamba 101: What you need to know for 2021

Dicamba complaints in Illinois dropped dramatically from 2019 to 2020. Here’s how to keep that trend moving in the right direction.

Sierra Day

April 29, 2021

3 Min Read
APPLICATION: The Illinois Department of Agriculture’s additional restrictions on dicamba application helped reduce off-target complaints by 80% in 2020, and the department extended those restrictions for the 2021 season.Holly Spangler

’Tis the season to talk about dicamba, especially in Illinois where dicamba-related complaint numbers hit an all-time high in 2019 before dropping off dramatically in 2020.

“In 2019, the IDOA received 723 dicamba-related complaints,” says Michael Woods, Division of Natural Resources manager at the Illinois Department of Agriculture. “Subsequently, the IDOA initiated a June 20 application cutoff date and an 85-degree [F] temperature restriction for 2020. In part, this has led to an 80% decrease in complaints in 2020.”

That was good news for the Illinois agriculture community. Then, in October 2020, the U.S. EPA renewed Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) registrations for the three dicamba pesticides through 2025. It also said states could no longer use FIFRA’s Section 24(c) to add restrictions — but did allow states to use Section 24(a) of FIFRA, which says a state can add restrictions through rule-making.

So, in February, IDOA issued emergency rules that apply in addition to the federal EPA label for XtendiMax, Engenia and Tavium. Here are the rules Illinois farmers and applicators need to follow in 2021:

• June 20 application cutoff date. This rule carries over from 2020 and states that dicamba should not be sprayed after this date.

• No application at or above 85 degrees F. If the air temperature at the field at the time of application is at or exceeds 85 degrees, dicamba should not be sprayed. The product should not be used if the National Weather Service forecasts a high temperature at the nearest location that is above 85 degrees for the application date.

• Consult the FieldWatch sensitive crop registry before spraying. This registry shows which sensitive crops surround each field, including fruit trees, vegetable plots and ornamental crops. Applicators must fulfill all related record keeping and label requirements.

• Applicators should take the wind direction into account. Dicamba usage should not occur when the wind is blowing adjacent to a residential area and/or an Illinois Nature Preserves Commission site.

Woods says IDOA hopes education, training and updated guidelines will help reduce the consequences of dicamba-related damages.

Can’t regulate volatility

While dicamba regulations, training and education helped reduce off-target damage last year, Aaron Hager, associate professor in the Department of Crop Sciences at the University of Illinois, says the science of dicamba application still applies.

“There are two avenues of off-target movement for dicamba. One is completely the responsibility of the applicator,” Hager says. “The other is through volatility, and that’s a chemical, physical process that is governed by temperature. It is governed by the formulation itself and is beyond the control of the applicant.”

He applauds the industry for developing physical application limits, which have curbed application at higher wind speeds. But regulations can’t curb volatility. 

“The registrants have always said that these new formulations are less volatile than others, and they are,” Hager says. “But less volatile is not the same as no volatility. If it is not a no-volatile formulation, then you’re back to the laws of chemistry and physics, which is beyond our control.”

Retailers remain optimistic about conditions for 2021. Kevin “KJ” Johnson, Illinois Fertilizer & Chemical Association president, says Illinois farmers and retailers need to follow the physical application steps if they want to keep off-target complaints down.

“There is a lot of small stuff that adds up to big stuff in the end,” Johnson says, adding that everyone needs to understand label requirement, consult FieldWatch and keep good records.

For more on Illinois-specific dicamba application rules, visit IDOA or IFCA.

About the Author(s)

Sierra Day

Field editor, Farm Progress

A 10th-generation agriculturist, Sierra Day grew up alongside the Angus cattle, corn and soybeans on her family’s operation in Cerro Gordo, Ill. Although she spent an equal amount in farm machinery as she did in the cattle barn as a child, Day developed a bigger passion for the cattle side of the things.

An active member of organizations such as 4-H, FFA and the National Junior Angus Association, she was able to show Angus cattle on the local, state and national levels while participating in contests and leadership opportunities that were presented through these programs.

As Day got older, she began to understand the importance of transitioning from a member to a mentor for other youth in the industry. Thus, her professional and career focus is centered around educating agriculture producers and youth to aid in prospering the agriculture industry.

In 2018, she received her associate degree from Lake Land College, where her time was spent as an active member in clubs such as Ag Transfer club and PAS. A December 2020 graduate of Kansas State University in Animal Sciences & Industry and Agricultural Communications & Journalism, Day was active in Block & Bridle and Agriculture Communicators of Tomorrow, while also serving as a communications student worker in the animal science department.

Day currently resides back home where she owns and operates Day Cattle Farm with her younger brother, Chayton. The duo strives to raise functional cattle that are show ring quality and a solid foundation for building anyone’s herd.

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