The Minnesota Department of Agriculture made it quite clear during a Feb. 16 Minnesota Soybean webinar that crop damage caused by the herbicide dicamba will be thoroughly investigated in 2021, and penalties will be levied.
Josh Stamper, MDA pesticide and fertilizer manager, reviewed EPA label requirements and explained how the department would be handling misuse complaints and crop damage reports. He repeatedly noted that the burden of proof is on the growers to prove that they correctly and completely followed rules for use.
“You have the right to farm to see how you fit within state, federal and local rules, but pesticide drift is not OK,” Stamper said. “It gives the farm and ag chem industry a black eye. The expectation that society has is that if we follow the label completely, we won’t have outside movement. The MDA will fully investigate all complaints or allegations about pesticide misuse.”
Stamper said MDA realizes that dicamba is an important tool, and he and ag commissioner Thom Petersen want to conserve the herbicide option.
“But it depends on growers and applicators to use it responsibly and correctly,” Stamper added.
Dicamba has had more than its share of negative news. Over the last four years, MDA has received more than 500 complaints about dicamba damage. To put future availability of dicamba in perspective, the last time MDA had more than five complaints about a specific product, the registrant pulled its product after 12 complaints, Stamper said.
The bottom line: Growers must know the label requirements and provide extensive documentation showing they have used the product according to the label. Each dicamba product registered for use in Minnesota — XtendiMax, Engenia and Tavium — has a slightly different label from the other two, so it’s up to the grower to know the specific requirements for the product used.
“The label is law,” Stamper said. “If you can’t follow that, you will have problems, and it will get expensive. Not knowing the label requirements is not an excuse.”
He encouraged growers to make time now to read product information and label requirements, and to assemble a dicamba binder for future record-keeping. That binder of information will be required if you become the focus of a dicamba complaint. At a minimum, when the ag chemical inspector visits your farm, you will be asked for your application records.
Here are the key points from Stamper’s presentation:
Detailed records are vital. “Your record-keeping is your opportunity to prove you’ve done everything correctly,” Stamper said. Application details — location, date, timing — must be recorded within 72 hours of completing product application. Dicamba application can begin an hour after sunrise and must end two hours before sunset. Growers in northwestern Minnesota and the Central Sands region of the state can download a smartphone app for temperature inversion alerts via North Dakota’s Ag Weather Network (NDAWN).
Temperature inversions are a major contributing factor to moving dicamba off-site. In 2020, about half of the complaints were not from edge-of-field damage, Stamper said. Rather, they were complaints, for example, about damage covering 90% of an 80-acre parcel.
When, how to apply. The application cutoff depends on growth stage and date. Tavium cannot be applied after V4, and XtendiMax after R1. No products can be applied after June 30.
Boom height wind speed and direction must be recorded with an anemometer. “You can pick one up for $30 on Amazon,” Stamper added. Wind speed recorded by a weather station or at the sprayer isn’t good enough.
Keep your neighbors informed. FieldWatch is Minnesota’s sensitive-crop registry. You can list fields here — dicamba-treated and -untreated. Neighbors can check FieldWatch to see where treated fields are located. However, growers need to talk to their neighbors.
“You need to talk to all of your neighbors and what you intend to use for herbicide technology,” Stamper said. “You can head off a lot of problems if you talk to them now.”
Map your buffers. Buffers are required and specific to each field. To help show compliance, draw a map and include it in your application record. If your farm is in one of 10 counties that has an endangered species bulletin (Clay, Olmstead, Fillmore, Pipestone, Lincoln, Polk, Mahnomen, Pope, Murray or Winona), you must provide a 57-foot omni-directional buffer. Also, a grower could use dicamba-resistant corn, small grains or other crops in the buffer area. Learn more about these counties via the EPA's Endangered Species Act Bulletins live website.
Keep and file receipts. In your records, you must list the volatility reduction agents, pH buffering agents and drift reduction agents used. EPA also requires that you submit receipts for purchase of these products, too. Those are something else you to add to your binder, Stamper said.
No AMS (ammonium sulfate). All tankmix products must be approved by the registrant and must be listed on your application record. Do not add ammonium sulfate to anything that has dicamba in it. “AMS will acidify the spray tankmix solution and exacerbate any volatilization coming off your dicamba spray solution,” Stamper said.
Respond immediately to damage reports. If a neighbor reports dicamba damage, and you receive notice or a visit from an ag chemical inspector, you must comply immediately and provide application records. If you are off the farm when the first contact is made, the ag chemical inspector will issue a written order for you to submit your application records. If you do not comply by the deadline given, MDA will issue a separate financial penalty.
“Any violation has the potential to lead to a final penalty ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars,” Stamper said, adding that repeat violations will result in increased penalties. “To date, we haven’t had repeat violators. That’s what we’re looking for. We’re going to work with you. If you make the same mistake a second time, you’ll have a larger financial penalty.”
MDA would like to see products such as dicamba remain on the market for growers, he added.
“Future product registration depends on harmonious use of the product,” Stamper said. “We want everybody to have safe, profitable, productive agricultural enterprises. We want you to use tools that contribute to a profitable ag enterprise. But if your use of these tools impacts your neighbors and their ag enterprises, we’ll have to conduct an investigation.”
More information is available on MDA's dicamba website. A good place to start is the frequently asked questions page which is continually updated. Or contact Stamper at 651-201-6639 or email@example.com.