Arkansas Dicamba Ban Update

Arkansas Ban on Dicamba Heads to Governor

Pam Smith , Crops Technology Editor
Complaints claiming misuse or drift of dicamba herbicide continue to mount in Arkansas. (Graphic courtesy of the Arkansas Agriculture Department)

DECATUR, Ill. (DTN) -- The Arkansas State Plant Board (ASPB) has voted to pass a proposed emergency rule to ban the use of in-crop dicamba, with an exemption for pastureland. The board also ruled to expedite the rule increasing civil penalties for dicamba misuse.

Earlier this year, the board had agreed to increase misuse fines up to $25,000, but those were not originally supposed to kick in until August.

These are just the first steps in the process of establishing an emergency rule, noted Adriane Barnes, Arkansas Agriculture Department director of communications. The next step includes a review of the proposed rule by the governor before being submitted to the Executive Subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council for approval.

Barnes said Gov. Asa Hutchinson has followed this issue closely and has sent a task force to visit farmers in areas with heavy dicamba damage.

The governor reviews rules pursuant to Executive Order 15-02, which ensures that the rules do not place an unnecessary burden on business. Also, the governor only approves the rule for promulgation. It is up to the executive subcommittee to approve the rule as effective.

The ASPB had met earlier this week and appeared to reject the proposed ban. However, after the meeting, a procedural error was discovered. An error in the number of votes needed to pass required the group reconvene for another count.

The pending ban and legislation applies only to the state of Arkansas and would be a 120-day halt to spraying. Still, the dicamba drama is being followed closely by farmers, spray applicators and seed salesmen throughout the soybean and cotton belts. Farmers have clamored for new technologies to help fight tough-to-control weeds that have increasingly become resistant to herbicides.

THREE-YEAR BATTLE

Dicamba drift complaints in 2015 and 2016 were often blamed on the fact farmers were able to plant dicamba-tolerant varieties, but had no low-volatility herbicide component available.

Arkansas took a harsher line than other states when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency finally approved new herbicide formulations for the 2017 season to be used with what is known as the Xtend cropping system. The state cut off the use of DGA-based dicamba herbicides (XtendiMax and FeXapan) after April 15 until more studies could be conducted. It also required mandatory applicator training, extended buffer zones around the entire field at application and established a 0.25-mile downwind buffer to sensitive crops. At this time, BASF's Engenia herbicide, a reduced-volatility formulation that utilizes the BAMPA salt, is the only dicamba herbicide legally labeled in the state.

However, 242 complaints of dicamba misuse have been recorded so far in 2017 in 19 counties in Arkansas. Those complaints represent individual citizens who have taken time to file the formal paperwork.

Dicamba drift issues are also being recorded in Mississippi, Tennessee and Missouri. University of Illinois weed specialist Aaron Hager said he's has seen the puckering and cupping of leaves characteristic to dicamba injury showing up in Illinois this week. "Our spray season is about two weeks behind most of the Southern states," he said.

How much injury the symptoms represent is difficult to tell since yield loss is typically connected to the dose the plant receives and the growth stage it is. Soybeans nearing the reproductive stages are typically most vulnerable.

In addition to yield reduction, low rates of dicamba that come into contact with susceptible soybeans at later growth stages such as R3-R5 can result in dicamba carryover in the soybean seed or progeny, according to University of Arkansas weed scientist Tom Barber.

To follow the situation in Arkansas, monitor http://www.aad.arkansas.gov/…

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

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

(AG)