dicamba drift damage_Missouri

A soybean field in southeast Missouri shows the effects of dicamba drift damage, including cupping leaves. Southwest Iowa farmer Jeff Jorgenson says communication with neighbors helps to reduce the risks.  

Jeff Jorgenson, who farms in Sidney, Iowa, has been using headline-grabbing dicamba products to protect his soybeans from weeds, and he said he loves the way the herbicide has been working for him.

“The control we had from the dicamba was outstanding,” he said.

However, he’s fully aware of the divisiveness.

The EPA recently announced new restrictions for dicamba products as part of a two-year extension for use. One of the main concerns with the herbicide has to do with drift affecting neighboring fields.

Aware of this potential for damage, Jorgenson said he stays in communication with his seed dealer and neighbors about his use, limiting his use to 80 percent of his fields and keeping a buffer between those that may not be using the herbicide.

“I called neighbor farmers and asked them, ‘What’s your plan there and what are you going to have’ because you have to know,” Jorgenson said. “Everyone I talked to about it, honestly, they were happy I called. We were getting the info to each other so we knew what was going on, instead of just doing it.”

And when the danger is there, he follows the label.

“I have one neighbor who is a little closer, but that day we ended up with the right wind direction and we had a fair amount of buffer in between,” he said.

Misuse complaints

Keeping that buffer has kept Jorgenson from complaints, but across the state of Iowa, the number of misuse complaints has risen over the past two years.

After averaging just over 100 complaints from 2013-16, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship saw 248 complaints registered in 2017 and 254 in 2018.

Breaking down those recent numbers, 52.8 percent of the 2017 complaints were growth regulator herbicide complaints, with 88 total investigations involving over-the-top applications of dicamba. In 2018, the number of investigations has gone down to 56, but the number of growth regulator complaints rose to 57.9 percent.

New restrictions

With the new restrictions for the next two years, IDALS communications director Dustin Vande Hoef said the department hopes to see the numbers go down.

“Certainly there were additional restrictions this year around the use,” Vande Hoef said. “We saw pretty consistent numbers from this year to last year, so we’ll wait to see on that. We saw a little more use, so percentage wise, as we get more comfortable with it and understand it, we hope to see less issues.”

The EPA registration of BASF’s Engenia, DuPont’s FeXapan and Monsanto’s XtendiMax dicamba products runs through Dec. 20, 2020. It requires that only certified applicators can apply dicamba over-the-top, and over-the-top dicamba application on soybeans is prohibited 45 days after planting or up until the R1 first bloom growth stage, whichever comes first.

IDALS officials go out to investigate complaints and enforce requirements.

“We try to understand what happened,” Vande Hoef said. “We have a broad range of options with civil penalties or take other actions. We take each situation and see what our investigation reveals, then take actions based on what the situation shows and what we can prove.”

Jorgenson’s initiative to communicate and stay cognizant about the effects he could have on his neighboring farmers aims to reduce these issues as well.

“Right now, you can’t have issues (with your neighbors),” Jorgenson said. “We have issues far and wide way bigger than that, so it’s not hard to mitigate this issue. You are doing your business, and you want to make sure theirs is maintained as well. You don’t want to have that issue with a neighbor in an area where you are farming.”

While dicamba has been divisive, Jorgenson said taking away the herbicide wouldn’t be in farmers’ best interests.

“To not have this part of the toolbox available to the farmers, it would really be a bad thing I think for agriculture in the soybean farming world,” Jorgenson said.