Illinois Dicamba Announcement

New Dicamba Cutoffs Announced for Illinois

Pam Smith
By  Pamela Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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The increase in pesticide complaints attributed to dicamba skyrocketed this year, causing Illinois to request additional restrictions. (Illinois Department of Agriculture chart)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- Illinois farmers using dicamba-tolerant technology face additional restrictions in 2020. The Illinois Department of Agriculture (IDOA) has announced a cutoff date of June 20 and a temperature cutoff of 85 degrees Fahrenheit for dicamba formulations used with the Xtend cropping system.

These new cutoff requirements are in addition to the federal label requirements that apply to Engenia, XtendiMax, FeXapan and Tavium. Illinois is the first state toannounce stricter requirements for the coming year in an attempt to give farmers answers as they purchase seed for next season.

In a news release, IDOA Director John Sullivan said the Department will be forwarding a 24 (c) registration request to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) for Illinois specific labels for the use of dicamba on soybeans in 2020 requiring the following additional provisions:

1. DO NOT apply this product if the air temperature at the field at the time of application is over 85 degrees Fahrenheit or if the National Weather Service's forecasted high temperature for the nearest available location for the day of application exceeds 85 degrees Fahrenheit.

(Local National Weather Service forecast are available at https://www.weather.gov/….)

2. DO NOT apply this product after June 20, 2020.

3. Before making an application of this product, the applicator must consult the FieldWatch sensitive crop registry (https://www.fieldwatch.com/…) and comply with all associated record keeping label requirements.

4. Maintain the label-specified downwind buffer between the last treated row and the nearest downfield edge of any Illinois Nature Preserves Commission site.

5. It is best to apply product when the wind is blowing away from sensitive areas, which include but are not limited to bodies of water and non-residential, uncultivated areas that may harbor sensitive plant species.

"These additional restrictions were reached after careful consideration with our Environmental Programs team at the Department, as well as input from stakeholders in the agriculture industry," Sullivan said.

The announcement of new restrictions comes after the state faced a meteoric rise in alleged dicamba-injury complaints this year, said Doug Owens, chief of the IDOA's bureau of environmental programs. "We're at 963 total misuse complaints, and 724 of those are alleged dicamba-related" from 259 individuals, he told DTN.

That represents a nearly 100% increase from last year, when the state fielded 330 dicamba-injury complaints, and about a 200% increase from 2017, when the state saw 246 such complaints.

IDOA initially instituted a June 30 cutoff date for dicamba applications for the 2019 season. But after persistent rainfall stalled planting deep into June, Sullivan made the decision to move that cutoff date to July 15 for June-planted soybean fields.

Most of the alleged dicamba injury complaints came between the last week of July and the first week of September, Owens said.

Given that dicamba injury symptoms can take anywhere from 10 to 21 days to become visible, that suggests most of the applications potentially at fault occurred in late June and throughout the month of July, when the state experienced some of its hottest and most humid days.

There are some cases where evidence suggests injury came from dicamba applications after the state's final cutoff date of July 15, Owens added.

"Those are the ones we will prioritize investigating," he said. Complaints were concentrated across the northern two-thirds of the state.

University of Illinois weed scientist Aaron Hager said to keep in mind that complaints are those that were actually reported.

"The areas of the state where we had the most complaints was where it was very dry -- where we had very little rainfall after applications were made," Hager said.

"However, we can't make a blanket statement that injury did not happen in other counties. There was off-target movement across the entire state. The most 'reported' injury was in the east-central portion of the state," he noted.

Before dicamba-tolerant crops were introduced in Illinois, the state's regulatory agency typically only dealt with around 100 pesticide injury complaints per year. The skyrocketing rise in complaints in recent years has forced the bureau to change how it investigates pesticide complaints, Owens noted.

"Normally we work through in linear fashion, and start with investigating the alleged off-target movement and damage, then find out applicators working in adjacent fields," he explained. "This year, we just had to just go out and visit complainants and document off-target movement before harvest. Up until now, we've been focused solely on visiting and documenting alleged damage. Then we will follow-up with landowners and potential applicators that might be involved and start pulling records at a later time."

Given that it took the Illinois agency until summer 2019 to wrap up the 330 dicamba injury complaints from 2018, this year's complaint investigations will push deep into 2020, Owens predicted.

Dealing with the deluge of dicamba injury investigations is an expensive endeavor for state agencies. Indiana regulators also dealt with a record number of dicamba complaints this year, at 178, up from 146 in 2018. The Indiana Office of the State Chemist estimates that it spent $2.3 million in 2018 to investigate dicamba and $1.2 million in 2017.

Owens couldn't put a figure on the costs to Illinois yet, but said dicamba investigations had required significant overtime for staffers, workload reassignments and a shift of resources away from some of their other routine duties, such as nursery stock inspections.

Cutoff dates can be hard to effectively enforce, as some state regulators have discovered in the past three years.

In Arkansas, regulators established a May 25 cutoff date for dicamba use. The delayed spring prevented most applicators from spraying dicamba before that date. Yet, by the end of the summer, the Arkansas State Plant Board had fielded about 209 complaints of off-target injury, nearly the same as 2018, said Arkansas Department of Agriculture spokesman Brett Dawson.

Likewise, Illinois is investigating some potential illegal dicamba applications after the cutoff date. But proving this happened can be difficult for state investigators, who rely on an applicator's self-kept spray records, Owens noted.

Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association President (IFCA) Jean Payne said a survey of retail commercial applicator members earlier this year supported similar changes as next steps.

"The result of the survey led to IFCA supporting a mid-June cutoff date for application, in concert with what IDOA has decided," Payne said. "We believe the temperature language also serves as an additional measure of protection.

"Ultimately, with over 700 dicamba complaints in 2019, Illinois is in a situation where we must take necessary actions to preserve the use of this technology in soybean production," she said.

-- Emily Unglesbee contributed to this article.

Read the IDOA release: https://www2.illinois.gov/…

Pamela Smith can be reached at pamela.smith@dtn.com

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

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Pam Smith