EPA Eyes Dicamba Injury

EPA in Search of Dicamba Injury Reports as It Reviews the Spray Season

Emily Unglesbee
By  Emily Unglesbee , DTN Staff Reporter
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EPA is reviewing dicamba injury reports from the 2021 spray season and demanding dicamba registrants send the agency more information on alleged adverse effects of the herbicide. (DTN file photo by Pamela Smith)

This article was originally posted at 3:57 p.m. CDT on Friday, Sept. 10. It was updated at 8:45 a.m. CDT on Tuesday, Sept. 14.


ROCKVILLE, Md. (DTN) -- EPA is actively reviewing how the new dicamba labels performed this summer and is alarmed at the levels of injury reports surfacing from some states, EPA Deputy Press Secretary Tim Carroll told DTN in an email.

The review could prompt label changes, if necessary, Carroll wrote.

"EPA is extremely concerned about these reports and is taking steps to better understand the nature and severity of these incidents in order to assess the sufficiency of the mitigations in the 2020 decision and, as necessary, take appropriate regulatory action," he said.

In search of a clearer picture, the agency sent letters on Sept. 9 to Bayer, BASF, Syngenta and Corteva, demanding that they turn over more information on dicamba injury reports from the 2021 season. The letters suggest EPA believes companies are withholding certain reports, such as damage to seed production and research fields, or cupped soybean fields that companies believe should be attributed to other causes.

The agency also is communicating with the Weed Science Society of America, state Extension agents, academics, the Association of American Pesticide Officials and USDA about off-target dicamba movement this summer, Carroll said. "EPA encourages others with relevant information to provide it to the Agency," he concluded.

For more information on how dicamba injury has continued this summer, see this DTN story: https://www.dtnpf.com/….

Agrichemical companies are required by the Federal Insecticide Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to report "adverse effects" such as drift and crop injury from their pesticides to EPA promptly. Companies with over-the-top dicamba herbicide registrations, such as Bayer (XtendiMax), BASF (Engenia) and Syngenta (Tavium) face enhanced requirements on dicamba injury reporting and studies. (Corteva, which discontinued its FeXapan dicamba product this year, was also included by EPA in this group, because the herbicide's registration is still active with EPA).

In the letters sent to the four companies, EPA suggests companies may have withheld some key dicamba injury incidents --which are due within 30 days of a report -- and research.

Specifically, the agency's letters suggest companies may have not reported injury from dicamba to their seed and research fields.

"The Agency has received reports of seed breeding programs and research plots being impacted by exposure to dicamba," each letter stated. "EPA has not received such reports from your company."

The letters also mention allegations that companies are ignoring reports of cupped soybeans if the company investigators believe another source is the problem, such as drought or soybean genetics. (See a DTN story on the in-season debate on the causes of soybean cupping this summer here: https://www.dtnpf.com/….)

"EPA has received allegations that some registrants have not submitted reports of leaf 'cupping' of soybean plants on the grounds that cupping can be caused by drought and/or exposure to herbicides other than dicamba (e.g, glufosinate, group 15 herbicides) in certain varieties that are of 'poor plant genetics,'" the letters state. "EPA considers this assertion speculative, and insufficient grounds to rule out dicamba exposure as a cause of cupping. Accordingly, leaf cupping is considered an adverse effect of dicamba exposure and must be reported irrespective of plant genetics, although genetic information considered relevant may be included in the report."

The agency is demanding a long list of information from companies related to dicamba injury or off-target effects, including:

-- All studies or incidents on adverse effects of dicamba.

-- Any information on plant sensitivity to dicamba, especially plants more sensitive to it than soybeans.

-- Annual total quantities of all dicamba products sold by each registrant.

-- Any reports of seed or research fields exposed to dicamba.

-- All reports of "cupping" in soybean plants.

-- Information on the herbicidal and toxicological effects of dicamba.

-- Any information on tank mixes found to be incompatible or reactive. (See a related DTN story here: https://www.dtnpf.com/….)

-- Any information stemming from pending or anticipated lawsuits over dicamba injury.

-- All studies or data on dicamba off-target movement, volatilization, spray drift, runoff, leaching, rainfall, as well as studies on dicamba residues in rainwater, and the development of dicamba-resistant weeds. (See a related DTN story here: https://www.dtnpf.com/….)

You can see the letters here: https://www.regulations.gov/….

Bayer sent a statement to DTN on Sept. 10, which characterized the letters as a routine part of a herbicide registration and did not address the alleged missing studies and dicamba injury incidents: "Bayer routinely provides information to EPA relative to our product registrations, and well after EPA approval," the statement said. "This is a matter both of EPA's routine regulatory oversight, and also in the spirit of ongoing cooperation."

BASF emailed a statement on Sept. 14, saying that the company was already complying with the letters' directives. "As required by law, BASF has submitted to the EPA monthly 6(a)(2) reports of alleged adverse incidents reported to BASF where Engenia herbicide was alleged to have caused injury to neighboring crops or property," the statement read. "We intend to fully comply with the EPA's request and will continue to work with growers, governmental agencies, and weed scientists to provide timely, accurate, and complete information to these important stakeholders."

As of publication time, Syngenta had not yet responded to DTN's requests for comment.

Emily Unglesbee can be reached at Emily.unglesbee@dtn.com

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Emily Unglesbee