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Mississippi investigates off-label spraying

Around 22,500 acres of wheat in Arkansas and Mississippi received illegal applications of insecticide in April, according to plant boards in the states.

According to the Mississippi Bureau of Plant Industry, about 18,000 acres of wheat in parts of Tallahatchie, Sunflower, Bolivar and Coahoma counties in the state were sprayed with Fury, a pyrethroid not labeled for use on the crop. The sprays, all made by air, were directed at armyworms, which came on unexpectedly toward the end of the growing season. All of the affected wheat was identified before harvest began.

“When Mississippi found their problem, they notified us and we had inspectors on the ground the next day looking at applicator records,” said Darryl Little, assistant director of the Arkansas State Plant Board.

“We started tracing the materials through the dealers to the farmers. We have found to date (May 31) around 4,500 acres where Fury was applied to wheat.

“That's a lot of wheat, but we have 1.2 million acres in Arkansas, so it's not widespread. Apparently, there were some dealers/consultants involved in making the recommendations in getting this material to the farmer.”

Little said around 2,000 acres are affected in Crittenden County, “and there's a pocket up around Harrisburg and another area around Holly Grove. We checking out a couple of leads in the southeastern corner of the state, a 45-acre field and one producer in southern Arkansas County who we've not identified yet.”

Little said the board should be through with its investigations by June 4. “We'll be working up enforcement cases on everybody that was involved in the misuse, from the crop advisor to the applicator.”

With good weather, Arkansas wheat harvest was to have begun in early June and elevators were very concerned about taking delivery of contaminated wheat, noted Little. “We're distributing what information we have about the growers that made the applications to any grain facility that requests that information.”

According to Bill Reed, vice president corporate communications and public affairs for Riceland, “the company has taken steps to protect our farmers who deliver wheat.” The company is asking growers who deliver wheat to the facility to certify that the wheat “has not been sprayed with a prohibited, non-labeled pesticide, including FMC's Fury (zeta-cypermethrin).”

According to University of Arkansas wheat and feed grain specialist William Johnson, methyl parathion is the insecticide of choice for armyworms on wheat. Warrior T, a pyrethroid, is also labeled in wheat for armyworms as are Lannate, malathion and Tracer.

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