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Dicamba challenges ongoing as 2021 season nears

Dicamba challenges ongoing as 2021 season nears

Soybeans

While plans are being made for the 2021 growing season, dicamba is expected to be part of the weed control process for many farmers across the Midwest.

The Environmental Protection Agency announced new labels for the dicamba herbicide at the end of October. While the federal guidelines and approval have been handed out, some states have yet to approve the rules for their producers.

Illinois joins states such as Michigan, Minnesota and Indiana in not having approved the use as of Dec. 3. Jean Payne from the Illinois Chemical and Fertilizer Association said she believes the Illinois Department of Agriculture is weighing its options.

“They are doing their due diligence this past month,” Payne said. “It hasn’t been easy for them because the U.S. EPA has said they’ll only accept 24(C)s (state amendments) to expand the label and not restrict it.”

However, the need for a resolution is urgent, she said.

“It’s important to get these labels adopted because we have a lot of seed and supply and orders going on,” Payne said. “A lot of farmers are under the assumptions that they are going to be able to use these herbicides and a lot of retailers have to align with inventory.”

Iowa and Missouri have both approved the labels for the 2021 season.

The main changes in the label are requiring a 240-foot downwind buffer on application (or 310 feet in sensitive areas), an ability to reduce the downwind buffer to 110 feet using a hooded sprayer and an end date for use of June 30. The label is also simplified and shorter.

“Anytime we can get good label language, that provides a good framework for people to use these pesticides the way they were intended,” said Gretchen Paluch, Pesticide Bureau Chief with the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship.

Paluch said the amount of dicamba complaints has held fairly steady. However, in 2020, complaints hit a record high in Iowa, with 329 pesticide misuse complaints.

“Understanding the label is something our program really focuses on,” Paluch said. “It’s absolutely key. In the past it’s been a challenge to convey how those products should be used and interpreted, even for IDALS.”

For those in counties that have extended restrictions, for an endangered species or proximity to a subdivision, for example, Payne said there are options available.

“Three years ago it was Xtend soybeans and that was it,” Payne said. “Last year Enlist was approved so you could use that 2,4-D over the top and now you have XtendFlex, so you could use a combination of dicamba early and a glufosinate later. There are a lot more options for farmers.”

Applicator training in Illinois is up in the air with no label approved yet, which will add to an already unique season as many trainings switch to an online format to adhere to COVID-19 safety guidelines.

“There’s 22,000 applicators in Illinois that are due to have their pesticide licenses retested this year,” Payne said. “For the first time ever in Illinois we are doing that in an online capacity. That’s going to be a major undertaking.”

Payne advised farmers to ensure they are adhering to the guidelines put out and doing any spraying as safely as possible to keep complaints down. With new EPA leadership coming with the Biden administration in 2021, things might change a bit moving forward, Payne said.

“They may not be as willing to fight to keep those labels as maybe the previous EPA administration in Washington D.C.,” she said. “That’s why stewardship becomes so important this year. It’ll be a success if we can keep the number of complaints from going up again.”

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