Of the eight new rules that the North Dakota Department of Agriculture announced that have to be followed when applying dicamba on soybeans in North Dakota next year, the one requiring farmers to notify the department when they are about spray a field is the most controversial.
“We don’t mean it be over burdensome … we are just trying to provide some clarity,” said Doug Goehring, North Dakota agriculture commissioner, in a packed meeting room at the recent Northern Ag Expo in Fargo, N.D.
By spring, the department will have set up a website or smart phone app that farmers can use to notify the department before they spray a field with Monsanto’s XtendiMax; BASF’s Engenia and DuPont’s FeXapan, he said.
Or they will be able to call a hotline number and talk to a person who will enter the required information for them.
Callers will have to provide the applicator’s certification number and contact information, and the location of the field by county, township, section and range names and range.
The purpose of notifying the ag department is twofold, Goehring said.
First, pesticide regulators want to make sure that spray applicators are following federal and state labels.
In North Dakota, dicamba can only be applied to soybeans until June 30, or when soybeans reach the R1 stage of development (first flower), whichever is earlier. It can only be applied between an hour after sunrise to an hour before sunset. The actual air temperature and the forecasted high temperature of the day both have to be below 85 degrees F. According to federal labels, wind speeds have to be between 3-10 mph (the upper limit was 15 mph last year), and the wind has to be blowing away from adjacent sensitive crops.
Second, NDDA regulators want know where dicamba is being applied. In 2017, the department staff received about 200 phone calls, emails and texts about suspected dicamba drift, and 40 formal complaints were filed. But it was difficult to determine where dicamba had been applied and who might have been responsible — or not responsible — for the drift.
There were stories about people taking out flags indicating which fields were planted to the new soybeans with the new dicamba trait so that nearby damage couldn’t be traced to those fields.
“If there is damage, we want to be able to pinpoint where it [dicamba] is coming from,” Goehring said.
The training requirement sparked questions, too. NDDA is requiring that anyone who drives the sprayer — not just the farm owner, operator or manager — be certified to apply dicamba. Previously, if the owner, operator or manager had a restricted use herbicide certification and was nearby when the crops were sprayed, the sprayer operator didn’t need to be certified, too.
However, in 2018, anyone who operates the sprayer and applies dicamba will have to complete a class.
Monsanto, BASF and DuPont will be holding certification meetings January through March.
Expect the meetings to last 1 ½ to 2 hours, Goehring said. The dates, times and locations of the meetings will be posted on NDDA and North Dakota State University Extension websites.
In the spring, there may be an online training course for people who are hired just before the spraying season, Goehring said.
Don’t get boxed in
Goehring, who farms near Menonken, N.D., recommended using pre-emergent herbicides on soybeans so that you don’t get boxed in by the weather and feel forced to apply dicamba when it isn’t safe to do so.
June can be wet and windy, he said. You may have only a few days when dicamba can be applied legally. Applying the new products off-label will expose you to great risk if there is drift damage to nearby crops.
Using pre-emergence herbicides will give you more options to control weeds safely and legally, Goehring says.