Monsanto: Reports of crops injured by dicamba drift are similar to last year

If there is one thorn in side of Missouri farmer Tommy Riley, it’s pigweed.

However, Riley told members of the media July 10 he hasn’t been able to use dicamba, a product he says worked well to control weeds on his 4,000-acre farm, for a month now, despite his efforts to follow labels and correctly apply the herbicide.

“My only negative issue is it has been taken away from us as of June 10, and we are growing back up now,” Riley, who farms in New Madrid County near the Mississippi River, said. “We are trying to figure out how to stop the almighty pigweed without being able to spray dicamba.”

Riley was one of two farmers who gave testimonials during Monsanto’s mid-season dicamba update.

Monsanto officials reported in the conference call that they have had 156 inquiries through June 28 regarding off-target drift of the chemical this season, mostly occurring from not following the label, along with other factors. That compares to similar reports last year, said Ryan Rubischko, the North America dicamba portfolio lead for Monsanto.

A week later, Monsanto updated its report, saying the company has received 381 inquiries from 240 unique farmer and applicator calls about potential off-target movement.

Dicamba has been around for decades. However, in the past few years, the herbicide has been under scrutiny. Farmers, like Riley, who plant dicamba-resistant genetically engineered crops find it will kill the elusive broadleaves like pigweed, which have become resistant to other herbicides, including glyphosate.

However, Dicamba can drift in fields for miles, thus potentially damaging conventional crops of other farmers who aren’t using the same technology.


Damage in 2017

Kevin Bradley, a University of Missouri plant scientist, estimated in an August 2017 study that about 3.1 million acres of soybeans were damaged by dicamba 20 states that year, including 325,000 acres in Missouri, 100,000 in Kansas and 900,000 in Arkansas.

In his latest report June 1, Bradley estimated 383,000 acres of soybeans have been injured so far in 2018 across 10 states.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture implemented rules last fall to help curb crop damage, which included the June 10 application deadline for Monsanto XtendiMax and DuPont FeXapan for the Bootheel region where Riley farms.

In the rest of the state, farmers cannot apply either product after July 15. 

In Arkansas, the application of products containing dicamba for agricultural uses is prohibited from April 16 through Oct. 31, according to the Arkansas Agriculture Department.

Rubischko said dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton varieties have more than doubled this year, with 50 million acres planted. Meanwhile, customers are reporting success with the company’s low-volatility dicamba product, XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology.

“We are talking to customers every day about their experiences,” Rubischko said. “The consistent feedback is weed control is outstanding, and they have been achieving on-target applications.”


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Education, training required

Lack of education and training on how and when to apply dicamba is a big issue, Riley said.

Prior to the season, Monsanto, others in the industry and academic leaders trained 94,000 growers and operators on enhanced application requirements. Rubischko reminded growers that, regardless of the herbicide they are spraying, it is important to read and follow the label.

For low-volatility dicamba:

Do not spray if the wind is blowing toward a susceptible crop;

Understand wind and environmental conditions for every application;

Follow all label requirements; and

Only use low volatility formulations on the crop.

“Importantly, none of the issues we have assessed so far this season have been attributed to XtendiMax volatility,” Rubischko said.

Early reports also incidents some symptomology could be could be attributed to other factors such as environmental stresses, other herbicide mixtures with ammonium sulfate, exposure to other herbicides and spray system hygiene.

“That is why it is so critical that we carefully review the facts and data regarding each and every inquiry,” he said.

Rubischko said producers can call 1-844-RR-XTEND if they think their crop has been damaged by an off-target application.

He added the company takes every inquiry seriously and is working to walk fields as quickly as possible.

Brian Hlavinka with Hlavinka Cattle Co., said he farms 6,500 acres of rice, corn and cotton not far from Texas’ Gulf Coast. His main weed issue is waterhemp. Starting with a clean field is important for his 3,000 acres of cotton this year, and dicamba helps with that.

“If you drive along my farm, you won’t see any (weeds) sticking out,” he said. “My fields are clean, and we are heading to the lighter part of growing the crop.”

He said he uses both Enlist, a herbicide by Dow AgroSciences, and dicamba because one of his neighbors uses the Enlist weed control system.

Hlavinka said he isn’t concerned about liability because he is following the label.

“The auxin technology, in general, keeps us farming with a chance of a profit,” he said.

Riley said dicamba was a great solution, but he now feels like he is back to square one with the governmental limitations.

“We’re chopping, were mechanically tilling, we’re back to all the things we used to have to do. And we’re going to add back to our seed bank next year,” he said. “I think they say one pigweed is capable of producing over a million seeds. It is disheartening to see any out there. And when you see one, you know you are going to have a million around you next year. Our need for the technology in southeast Missouri is huge.”

Amy Bickel can be reached at 620-860-9433 or [email protected].