soybeans cupped-leaf effects of dicamba drift damage

A field of soybeans shows the cupped-leaf effects of dicamba drift damage.

The wet spring pushed back the weed control timetable for a lot of fields this year, but some things did not change. Weed resistance concerns and dicamba drift issues continue to challenge farmers.

Kevin Bradley, University of Missouri weed scientist, says many farmers have been adapting to the herbicide and drift issues.

“I think it’s become kind of the new normal,” he says. “I think people are just living with it.”

Use of dicamba herbicides in recent years led to widespread complaints about spray drifting into fields which did not have dicamba-tolerant varieties, or onto trees and vegetable crops, resulting in a variety of state and federal measures to limit the damage.

Bradley says he has been receiving calls again this summer about dicamba drift damage.

“I know I’ve gotten a lot of calls from neighbors, from people who were drifted on,” he says.

Steve Steins, who farms in Holt and Nodaway counties in northwest Missouri, had a field of soybeans damaged, and he says there has been a lot of herbicide drift damage in his area from dicamba.

“We’ve had a lot of beans damaged, trees, you name it,” he says.

Steins says dicamba drift damage has been an issue the last few years. He says spraying across the road from his soybean field caused stunted growth.

“It stunted the hell out of my beans,” he says. “They didn’t do anything for a month. They finally took off. It sounded like it’d be a probably big yield loss. They should be waist high, and they’re knee high.”

Steins says some of the issue is applicators spraying when there is too much wind.

“They shouldn’t have been spraying,” he says.

He contacted the applicator about getting restitution, but has since had to contact his lawyer. He says he has also contacted the Missouri Department of Agriculture to get complaint forms to file.

“I figured if we can get enough people to file complaints, maybe we can get rid of the stuff,” Steins says.

The dicamba concerns were initially centered around the Bootheel area of southeast Missouri, although the herbicide has since seen more widespread use, Bradley says.

Meanwhile in the Bootheel area, issues with drift damage in corn and soybeans have gone down because most growers have chosen dicamba-tolerant varieties like Xtend — either for protection or because they want to use that crop technology.

“Is it better in southeast Missouri? Yes,” Bradley says. “But it’s because 95% of the crops down there are Xtend cotton and Xtend soybeans.”

Steins says a lot of farmers in his area, including his son, planted dicamba-tolerant soybeans for protection from drifting herbicide this year. He says his son just sprayed Roundup on his dicamba-tolerant soybeans. But Steins says he does not want to have to do that.

“They’re not going to force me to buy dicamba beans just to protect me from idiots,” he says.

Bradley says many people have grown frustrated with the process of reporting drift damage. State departments of agriculture have had to deal with huge spikes in herbicide drift damage claims the last few years.

“There’s just a lack of willingness to turn things into the Department of Agriculture anymore,” he says. “It’s just frustration in that process.”

The herbicide has seen adoption in a variety of areas across the Midwest.

“It’s a pretty diverse adoption all around,” Bradley says. “The past couple of weeks where I’ve gotten calls, there’s no rhyme or reason to where I’ve gotten calls. It has a pretty high adoption in northwest Missouri.”

Overall, Bradley says the herbicide has seemed to be effective at weed control, although waterhemp has still been tough to control this year, especially when it reaches a certain size. This year was particularly challenging for getting control of weeds early and getting them sprayed in a timely manner.

“I haven’t had any calls about poor performance (of dicamba herbicides),” Bradley says. “(But) we have seen with our plots, it doesn’t take much size at all and you’re not going to control that waterhemp.”

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Ben Herrold is Missouri field editor, writing for Missouri Farmer Today, Iowa Farmer Today and Illinois Farmer Today.