With concerns about Mid-South crops suffering increasing numbers of drift incidents, Monsanto is standing firm behind its Xtend technology.
In late June, Ryan Rubischko, North American Dicamba portfolio lead for the company spoke with Delta Farm Press. Among his comments:
What has been your experience for the last few weeks?
“First and foremost, we’re out talking to customers every day and we’ve been very pleased with the feedback we’re getting from a weed control standpoint. We’re hearing a lot of outstanding results and overall they’re pleased with being able to do that with an on-target application.
“As other reports come out, the key aspect we’re focusing in on is the importance of reviewing and evaluating some of these symptomology observations taking place prior to making any conclusions on the cause and scope. In some cases, they’re dicamba but not always.” Actually getting out “to walk the fields and understand the different circumstances is a key component.”
“Prior to the season, we worked quite closely with the states so mandatory training was available to farmers. Also, we addressed an inquiry process so if there is symptomology a farmer may find on a particular field he can reach out to us. Then, we can have folks out on their field to understand and help them know what may have been the cause…
“If a farmer calls us, our objective is to make a return phone call within 48 hours and try to set up time to come out and visit with the farmer.”
(Editor’s note: the number to call is 1-844-RRXTEND)
There’s a big concern amongst farmers about the EPA’s decision (on registration of new dicamba formulations) as early as August. Can you address that?
“Our effort with both state and federal regulators is the importance of reregistration prior to farmers making decisions on next year’s crop. Those decisions start taking place in a late August/September timeframe, in many cases prior to them actually harvesting the 2018 crop.
“Farmers (should) have a clear understanding of the availability of the Roundup Ready Xtend crop system for the 2019 season. That’s also why we highlight and have been so proactive — in terms of not only the training — in terms of the efforts of inquiries of symptomology so we can go out and evaluate with the farmer to help them understand what’s taken place.”
On a few examples of Monsanto’s efforts…
“We’ve given updates, and our goal is to continue to give updates every few weeks. Thus far, across the United States, we’ve had 55 inquiries where farmers have called and asked us to come out and look at symptomology.
“In some cases, that symptomology has been related to dicamba. But we’ve also found it’s wind speed being higher than what’s outlined on the label, a change in wind. Or, because of a wind change, a susceptible crop downwind has caused symptomology.
“That goes back to the importance of really keeping an eye on weather conditions as the applications are taking place.
“In addition to those, there’s been a number of situations where the farmer thought it was dicamba. Through the evaluations … we’ve seen a number of other causes beyond dicamba. There have been other herbicides — 2,4-D (damage) is one we’ve observed — other tank-mixes, some related to ALS and others related to certain diseases and environmental stresses, either too wet or too dry, that are sometimes to distinguish between dicamba (damage) and other aspects.”
On Monsanto’s 2018 approach to state regulators…
“Our main focus of the 2018 season is to provide some proactive communication. What that means is every few weeks Monsanto has provided updates on what we’re hearing and seeing directly from farmers. As farmers call … we’re trying to provide updates not only to states and federal regulators but others in the industry so they have insights into the actual observations taking place.”
Assuming the EPA registration goes through again, what is Monsanto expecting in terms of Xtend crop acreage in 2019?
“For 2018, we’re projecting approximately 50 million acres of Xtend soybeans and cotton were planted across the United States.
“What we project for 2019 is over 60 million acres.
“So, we went from 25 million acres in 2017 to a doubling of 50 million acres this year and expect that to continue to rise for 2019.”
On Monsanto’s dicamba research…
Monsanto’s “efforts aren’t just done (solely) by us but in collaboration with a number of universities.”
For the 2018 season, “there are three different types of trials we’re involved with. We have multi-year weed management trials where we’re partnering with 21 universities across the country. Those are more from a weed management standpoint and do incorporate dicamba.
“Monsanto is doing additional trials — using the highest of standards — across the United States. We’ve done them in Arizona, Missouri, and Nebraska (a 100-acre field), Minnesota, North Dakota and southern Illinois. Those are just Monsanto trials.
“There are also a number of trials we’re doing with current and future formulations of dicamba with 13 universities — one in Canada and 12 in the United States. Those are focused on generating localized data. States in your readership are LSU, Mississippi State, Texas A&M, University of Arkansas, University of Georgia, University of Tennessee.”
Trials are being done in Arizona and Australia “because of some of the most extreme weather conditions one can face. You have soil temperatures over 150 degrees and air temperatures over 100 degrees consistently.”
For the farmers who are drifted on, what’s your advice?
“From a general standpoint, if it’s a neighbor drifted upon, we encourage folks to also call (our hotline). We’re not just focused on the applicator but also want to help the non-applicators the best we can.”
“Especially in the Southern U.S., weed control over the last few years has been a challenge. (Xtend crops) have been significantly helpful in terms of an overall weed management system.
“But to do it effectively, and where we can help support them if they face concerns or symptomology, give us a call. We’ll quickly follow up and spend time walking their fields to help them where we can.”