Robbie Umphlett describes his son Clint as patient. That certainly is a valuable trait when it comes to applying herbicides to their dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybeans on their farming operation in Gates County, N.C. and Suffolk County, Va.
“Clint takes it slow. He doesn’t rush things. He is patient,” Robbie says.
Clint does most of the spraying for the family farm and as long as they have used the technology, they haven’t had a single issue or complaint of drift.
The Umphletts have used the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System ever since it became available in 2016. The Bollgard Xtendflex cotton varieties and the Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybean varieties are engineered to be tolerant to dicamba. Both Robbie and Clint are sold on the system in terms of both yield traits and weed control.
And because all of the soybeans and cotton they plant are Xtend, they don’t have to clean their two sprayers after they make an application. “Since we are able to go with the same traits in both crops, it simplifies our chemical needs,” Robbie says.
Three modes of action
The family uses three modes of action: Liberty or glufosinate, dicamba and Roundup. This allows them to customize their herbicide program for different fields.
Of course, the million-dollar question is how do the Umphletts avoid drift to susceptible crops?
“We slow down when we need to. We will slow down to seven mph if we need to,” Clint explains. “We use low pressure and use a low boom. I always believed in never putting your boom higher than you need to.”
The family has also used the Capstan system on their sprayers since 2019. Robbie and Clint say this system allows them to control the pressure of the sprayer and aim the chemistry right where it’s needed.
For Robbie and Clint, it always boils down to being cautious. “You have to be aware of what’s around you,” Robbie says.
Drift never an issue
Fact is, a neighbor to one of the Umphlett’s fields grows tomatoes that could never survive a dose of dicamba. Robbie and Clint communicated with her and she understood the benefits of dicamba-tolerant crops. Drift was never an issue for their neighbor and her tomato harvest turned out beautiful, Robbie says.
The Umphletts approach is just what North Carolina State University Extension Weed Specialist Charlie Cahoon has stressed in the mandatory auxin training this year and in years past. For example, in the training Cahoon says that keeping the boom height as low as possible is critical.
“The dicamba products specify a maximum boom height of 24 inches above the canopy or target, whereas the Enlist products say use the minimum boom height based on the nozzle manufacturer’s specifications. The reason why we are worried about this is greater boom height equals greater drift potential,” Cahoon said in a Jan. 29 virtual auxin training session.
Also, in the training, Cahoon stresses that nozzle selection is the single most important factor affecting spray drift which is why farmers must use only the approved nozzles for applying auxins. Cahoon says nozzle type, spray pressure, and sprayer speed influence droplet size. Smaller droplets are more prone to drift.
“What we are trying to avoid with spray drift is the production of small droplets or driftable fines,” Cahoon explains. “This is why the labels of these products require specific nozzle and pressure combinations that produce extremely coarse or ultra-coarse droplets.”