Production Blog

Winds of Change

The start of 2019 continues with a whirlwind of issues and the hopes that we find some answers to complicated trait soybean issues. (DTN photo by Pamela Smith)

DECATUR, Ill (DTN) -- Last fall, I went nose to nose with the soil and soybeans of Bureau County, Illinois, to photograph windmills. Yep, that's one of the photos shown with this blog post.

I'm short of stature, but I still like to get down to ground level. There's stuff down there -- wonderful earthy smells and cool bugs and miniscule plant life. The warm sun and the whomp, whomp, whomp of the windmill blades had me in deep reverie when a car pulled up and asked if I needed help.

The driver, bless his heart, looked skeptical as I explained my mission. He left me in the ditch bank, in a fog of gravel dust -- frantically cramming camera gear under my jacket in a futile attempt to protect sensitive equipment from the gritty aftermath of the retreating vehicle. Alone moments are so hard to come by these days.

When I think back on 2018 and the production season, it is that encounter that comes to mind. For those of you viewing this on our internet product, if you look closely at the photo, you'll see a green weed photo bombed my shoot.

And that pretty much sums up last year. Weed control -- and dicamba -- once again drifted onto my schedule and puckered up my workload. Puns are what I have left, because there has been no buffer zone for this topic.

Let me be perfectly clear. I have been writing seriously about the dicamba-tolerant technology for at least seven years. It was the cover story of the 2012 Winter Issue of The Progressive Farmer. In that article, we talked at length about what the industry and farmers would be facing with regard to stewarding this technology.

I've lost track of the number of articles we (myself and other DTN editors) have written about the Xtend trait. Last year, we teased out every change in the new labels. We wrote dozens of articles exploring the many details applicators needed to follow to adhere to the law.

We have visited farmers that had application success and failures. We went to the field to look at injury. We talked to arborists and looked at tree injury. We made late-night drives at the last minute to listen in as EPA officials talked about potential changes as they debated reregistering the chemicals. We attended multiple meetings with weed scientists scrambling to answer the many concerns they were being called to the field to review.

Let me now heave a great sigh, because it appears this year will be more of the same. Label restrictions have been further refined for 2019, but the outlook of how they will play out in the field remains cloudy.

Over the next few months, we will be bringing more information to you about the many requirements surrounding Engenia, FeXapan and XtendiMax. And we'll add Syngenta's S-metolachlor/dicamba premix herbicide called Tavium, for dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybeans, if it gains EPA approval.

We are also heading into a soybean season with additional new trait technologies tied to other chemistries. At this time, all of them have some kind of complicating string attached.

China recently granted import approvals for Enlist E3 soybeans with tolerance to glyphosate, 2,4-D choline and glufosinate herbicides. Owned by Corteva Agriscience, the agriculture division of DowDuPont, that trait will be widely licensed to other seed companies, but still lacks other import approvals needed for wide sales distribution in 2019.

LL-GT27 soybeans, which tolerate glyphosate, glufosinate and ALITE 27,a new HPPD/Group 27 herbicide, will also head to the field in 2019. At press time, a new herbicide had yet to be approved by the EPA for use in the tolerant crop.

China has also given thumbs up to MGI soybeans (SYHT0H2) that have tolerance to mesotrione, glufosinate and isoxaflutole herbicides. Those beans are now being co-developed by Syngenta and BASF, but lack a handful of important import approvals needed for commercialization.

We also still have Liberty Link, Roundup Ready and conventional beans on the landscape -- giving us an interesting mix of scenarios in 2019. All of those types of soybeans, with the exception of Xtend varieties, will be sensitive to dicamba.

So how to manage these herbicide technologies will remain a major focus in our agronomy coverage. Weed scientists are learning more about what the pH of the tank mix means to volatility of dicamba and what scenarios predict a temperature inversion, for example.

We are not just tilting at windmills by covering these topics. The world is watching. Doing the best possible job of juggling these different trait platforms will be critical in 2019.

As University of Tennessee weed scientist Larry Steckel recently noted: "This will ultimately come down to applicators making good decisions. In many cases, the best decision will be to NOT spray either a dicamba or 2,4-D product if there are sensitive crops/vegetation nearby."

Need to know what crops are sensitive? See…

Pamela Smith can be followed at

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN



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