Production Blog

Spooky Thoughts on Dicamba

Pam Smith
By  Pam Smith , Crops Technology Editor
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Dicamba herbicides will be allowed for over-the-top use in soybeans for another two years, but they come with further restrictions (DTN photo by Pamela Smith)

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. (DTN) -- The fact that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finally handed down a decision on 2019 dicamba rules on Halloween seems full of irony.

The long-awaited news that registrations on the three herbicides dedicated for use in the Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System had been extended came late in the afternoon -- just as millions of folks were dressing up to pretend to be something they aren't.

In its release, EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler stated: "EPA understands that dicamba is a valuable pest control tool for America's farmers. By extending the registration for another two years with important new label updates that place additional restrictions on the product, we are providing certainty to all stakeholders for the upcoming growing season."

The agency went on to indicate that the label changes "were made to ensure that these products can continue to be used effectively while addressing potential concerns to surrounding crops and plants."

At first blush, though, these additional label changes continue to address the issue of physical drift -- which is obviously important. They do little to address injury resulting from product movement by volatility, though, which is a big part of the controversy around this technology. That's a spooky thought for those who wish to grow something other than dicamba-tolerant crops.

You can find a listing of the new requirements and changes here: https://www.dtnpf.com/…

Fellow DTN journalist Emily Unglesbee and I have been glued to the news wires for weeks -- months really -- waiting for this EPA decision. It was supposed to be released in August.

It's frightening how many appointments and family things we've waved off this fall because we heard the rules might be coming. We've run down countless rumors on what the new labels might or might not contain.

Now that we have an actual document, we will be digging deeper to try to determine what the new rules mean. And we'll be following to see how individual states might throw their own spin on the requirements.

EPA was up against it on this decision. The world had already seen what happens when a seed trait like Xtend is in the field and there's no approved herbicide to use, but higher volatility generics are available. To have cancelled the newer formulation labels would have brought back that 2016 season nightmare.

It's hard not to be skeptical (and admittedly, journalists often are) about whether these new changes will keep dicamba at home. Industry is telling us training and restricted-use-product (RUP) status is what it takes to make this product behave -- after those same companies and groups fought hard earlier in the game against those very designations.

EPA seems to concur that training will stop off-target movement.

Our email boxes are already filling with opinions from farmers and spray applicators on both sides of this very controversial technology.

So buckle up for another year of dicamba coverage. What we do know is that university weed scientists and industry scientists are working hard to try to find answers to many different aspects of this issue. We'll be depending on them to help us all do better this year because, to not do so, is a very scary thought.

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

Follow her on Twitter @PamSmithDTN

(GH/AG)

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