Unless the stars align just so, it appears soybean producers won’t have permission to spray dicamba over-the-top on M1691 soybeans in 2016.
But that doesn’t mean some won’t be tempted.
Mid-South states are taking steps to help ameliorate the possibility that temptation might be too strong.
Monsanto is “putting M1691 through the registration process,” says Bob Scott, Arkansas Extension weed specialist. “If you look at the labels and things being reviewed, they’re very restrictive. I was kind of put off by that when I first saw it.
“Right now, there are no tank mixes allowed, a 110-foot buffer and a single nozzle type. So, that’s very restrictive.
“Since then, though, I think realistically M1691 won’t be labeled in time to be used this year. The timeline is very tight and working against it. You’re looking at a 30-day (EPA) comment period that just started. If everything goes smoothly, it’ll be late July or August before there’s even a label. That’s why I just don’t think it’s very likely dicamba will be labeled for those crops in 2016. However, it’s looking more likely for 2017.”
Susie Nichols at the Arkansas State Plant Board says “There are actually two different things going on.
“Monsanto has a technology called Xtend. Soybean seed, with dicamba resistance, is available for use in the state. However, the herbicide — a dicamba product — intended to be used on it is not registered by the EPA.”
The fretting about improper spraying of dicamba is heightened after last growing season when “some individuals — a very small group — used a dicamba product not labeled for this seed,” says Nichols. “That’s a big worry for the Plant Board; there’s a lot of Xtend soybean seed in the state. We’ve tried to let everyone know it’s a violation to use any dicamba product on this technology because none is labeled for this use.
“It’s a major concern because dicamba has a very adverse effect on soybeans. It has a propensity to drift and can kill an entire crop and a lot of this new technology crop will be planted in close vicinity to (vulnerable) soybeans.”
That led the Plant Board several weeks ago to adopt an emergency rule for record-keeping. The rule went into effect on April 2 and will be in force for at least 120 days.
“It’s similar to what we’ve done with 2,4-D,” says Nichols. “For 2,4-D, farmers and dealers, any kind of applicator, have had to keep records. Where was 2,4-D put out? How much was put out? And dealers must keep records of who it’s sold to.
“To help our inspectors in the field track how much and where dicamba was going out — and to ensure it was being used properly — is why this latest emergency rule was put in place. It requires dealers to keep records and those buying it to keep records. You must also have a license in order to purchase and use it.”
Nichols allows that the board doesn’t “know how much (the emergency rule) will help. But we’re hoping it will at least give us a start on watching for more dicamba applications and make sure it’s being used properly. We hope not to have to put additional restrictions on the technology in the future. We want the farmers to be able to use it.”
How does one get a license?
“We have two basic licenses. A private applicator license is what a farmer would need. To get the license they can come in and take a test or go to their county Extension offices for a short class. Most people buying dicamba for other applications already have a license.
“The second type of license is commercial or non-commercial. That covers the aerial applicators and anyone with a ground-rig for hire.
“The dealers who sell pesticides normally already have a license with the Plant Board. They’ll just need to keep records on who purchases dicamba — name, address, and the individual’s license number.”
Plant Board inspectors “are going around trying to help everyone get into compliance on this since it’s an emergency rule. At the June 10 board meeting, the board will decide if they want to make this a permanent rule. So far there’s been no controversy over the emergency rule.”
No dicamba over-the-top
The board, says Nichols, “tried to go with the least aggressive and burdensome pathway without having to go after the technology. We know the farmers need it and we want them to be able to use it. This approach has helped us with 2,4-D issues in the past.
“The main takeaway: there is no dicamba product that can go over-the-top of this new crop technology at the moment. We hope everyone stays in compliance with that. We don’t want to have more regulations in the future that might be more restrictive.”
Scott is equally emphatic. “The concern I have is that growers who are buying the Xtend soybeans understand no dicamba label allows for any use on those crops. The only thing allowed is for normal use — meaning dicamba can be used for burndown X days prior to planting. That’s it.”
And Scott wants producers to understand that any improper spraying of dicamba could be very detrimental to future use of the technology. “If they use dicamba improperly — there are plenty of these more volatile, generic versions available — and there are drift events in the state, it will do nothing but hurt the registration process. If folks want this technology, don’t throw hurdles up.
“It seems very odd to have a herbicide-tolerant technology available to producers and not be able to use the herbicide on it. It’s very tempting to try and make full use of the technology but don’t do it. The dicamba available now is more volatile than what will eventually be labeled.
“I know it’s not an easy thing to do. It’s like setting a cold beer in front of me on a hot day and saying, ‘don’t drink that.’ It’s tough, but I have to push that beer away.”