Dicamba gets green light for extended use

Soybean and cotton growers received a long-sought victory from the Environmental Protection Agency when in late October Administrator Andrew Wheeler approved new five-year registrations for two dicamba products and extended the registration for an additional dicamba product.

In a news release, the agency said all three registrations include new control measures to ensure these products can be used effectively while protecting the environment, including non-target plants, animals and other crops not tolerant to dicamba.

Ryan Wolf, agronomy manager with WinField United, said the decision was good news for growers, particularly for those producers who face tough weed pressure. Producers from western growing regions who are fighting kochia understand dicamba’s effectiveness.

“It opens up a new tool for the grower’s tool box,” he said.

Volatility reduction agent is a new term growers will need to study to help them with the drift patterns, he said. Growers need to closely review the details but they appear to be workable, Wolf said. He encouraged growers to sign up for informational meetings as they become available. Most are likely to be webinars but he expects the information to offer good insight.

“Overall it is good news,” Wolf said.

With all the uncertainty in 2020 that kept growers concerned about long-term availability of dicamba, the EPA’s decision in late October provides growers with certainty about product availability.

The EPA requires an approved pH-buffering agent to be tank mixed with over-thetop dicamba products before all applications, Wolf said. Also, the EPA requires a downward buffer of at least 240 feet and 310 feet in areas where there are listed species needing additional protection.

Over-the-top applications of dicamba on soybeans after June 30 and cotton after July 30 is prohibited, the agency said, and EPA also noted that labels and use directions will be simplified for improved application.

5-year commitment

American Farm Bureau Federation Congressional Relations Director Allison Crittenden said the announcement means EPA is reaffirming its commitment to dicamba for the next five years. “Ultimately this means farmers have certainty for the next five years that dicamba will be available to them and they’ll understand clearly the parameters in which to use it.”

Not every farm faces the same challenges, so growers need options to make decisions, Wolf said. It’s important that producers who encounter different weed challenges have a product they can use to help solve those problems.

“Look at your agronomic challenges and do what is best for you and your farm and look at all the genetics and traits and identify those traits,” he said.

Another company applauded the decision as Syngenta announced the EPA has extended the registration for Tavium Plus VaporGrip Technology herbicide in dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton. As the market’s first dicamba herbicide premix, Tavium contains built-in residual control to manage resistant weeds and maintain clean fields throughout the season. Tavium, a proprietary Syngenta premix, will be available for the 2021growing season, subject to state approvals.

Tavium can be used preplant, at planting and early post-emergence on dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton. A combination of the contact control of dicamba and the residual control of S-metolachlor, Tavium offers growers a convenient premix to manage key ALS-, PPO- and glyphosate-resistant broadleaf and grass weeds.

“Following the unpredictable circumstances this year, growers will be closely looking at their dicamba herbicide options for 2021,” stated Pete Eure, herbicide technical lead at Syngenta in a news release. “In its first full season in the field, Tavium delivered consistent weed control, crop safety and three weeks longer residual than dicamba alone across geographies in soybeans and cotton. It is the market’s first dicamba herbicide premix, and it remains a powerful and convenient choice for growers next year.”

“With today’s decision, farmers now have the certainty they need to make plans for their 2021 growing season,” Wheeler said. “After reviewing substantial amounts of new information, conducting scientific assessments based on the best available science, and carefully considering input from stakeholders we have reached a resolution that is good for our farmers and our environment.”

The EPA approved new registrations for two over-the-top dicamba products—XtendiMax with VaporGrip Technology and Engenia Herbicide—and extended the registration for an additional OTT dicamba product, Tavium Plus VaporGrip Technology. These registrations are only for use on dicamba-tolerant cotton and soybeans and will expire in 2025, providing certainty to American agriculture for the upcoming growing season and beyond.

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The 2020 registration labels also provide new flexibilities for growers and states, the regulatory agency said. For example, there are opportunities for growers to reduce the downwind spray buffer for soybeans through use of certain approved hooded sprayers as an alternative control method. EPA also recognizes and supports the important authority given to states for issuing locally appropriate regulations for pesticide use. If a state wishes to expand the federal OTT uses of dicamba to better meet special local needs, the agency will work with them to support their goals.

This action resulted from input from state regulators, grower groups, academic researchers and pesticide manufacturers. EPA reviewed substantial amounts of new information and conducted assessments based on the best available science, including making Effect Determinations under the Endangered Species Act. With this information and input, EPA has concluded that these registration actions meet Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act registration standards. EPA believes that these new analyses address the concerns expressed in regard to EPA’s 2018 dicamba registrations in the June 2020 U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Further, EPA concluded that with the control measures now required on labels, these actions either do not affect or are not likely to adversely affect endangered or threatened species.

Producer organizations offer support

The American Soybean Association appreciates the EPA has announced it will reregister dicamba for 2021 and future use. The product is one of many tools integral to the success of soy growers who face different crop production challenges throughout a diverse growing region spanning 30-plus states.

Bill Gordon, soybean farmer from Worthington, Minnesota, and president of ASA, said, “We rely in great part on EPA support for the continued success of our industry, from measures encouraging biodiesel market expansion to these types of decisions regarding safe and effective use of crop protection tools. We thank EPA today for the many steps and time invested in coming to this decision to reregister a product relied upon by many soy growers.”

ASA is reviewing the new registration to have a comprehensive understanding of its impact for U.S. soybean production. Dicamba is an important choice for growers to have available to help manage damaging weeds.

The National Cotton Council praised EPA’s work on issuing a new registration label for dicamba—a critically important weed control tool for cotton producers.

NCC Chairman Kent Fountain, a Georgia cotton producer and ginner, said the NCC will be evaluating the label to ensure the herbicide can be effectively utilized in controlling weeds without undue restrictions.

Fountain noted that research conducted prior to availability of dicamba-tolerant varieties reported a minimum 50% yield-loss in fields with resistant pigweed.

“The economic damage that would result from not being able to use dicamba herbicides would be tremendous,” Fountain said. “We greatly appreciate EPA’s timely issuance of a new five-year label for this critical crop protection product for cotton producers.”

Dave Bergmeier can be reached at 620-227-1822 or [email protected].