After another year of widespread complaints of crop damage due to dicamba drift, the Missouri Department of Agriculture implemented some regulations designed to curb the issue, and the University of Missouri has been involved in training applicators to limit improper application practices.
Kevin Bradley, an MU weed scientist, says he thinks the measures will make a difference in the situation.
“I hope it has an impact,” he says. “I think it will. There’s a lot of things we’ve been doing and others have been doing.”
The department issued special local need labels for three dicamba products, made by DuPont, BASF and Monsanto. The products cannot be applied before 7:30 a.m. or after 5:30 p.m., and they can’t be applied after June 1 in several southeast Missouri counties, and not after July 15 the majority of Missouri counties.
“Our goal is to show this technology can be used safely and successfully so that it remains in the market for future years,” Missouri director of agriculture Chris Chinn said in December, when the special labels were approved.
Applicators must also complete mandatory dicamba training, provided by MU Extension.
“I think people are leaving the training with a much better idea of what can happen,” Bradley says.
Of course, he says he can’t be sure what the situation will look like this year. But Bradley thinks the spray restrictions could help.
“They have specific cutoff dates that probably will affect the impact,” he says.
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The dicamba drift was mainly an issue in Missouri’s Bootheel region, although Bradly says “almost all” of the soybeans and cotton planted in the region will have the dicamba tolerant trait this year, which should help limit the damage as well.
“People are just having to plant it for protection,” he says.
However, more producers are looking to dicamba to combat resistant weeds in other areas. Bradley says there could be double the dicamba-tolerant acres planted this year.
“The Midwest in general is going to see a lot more of this,” he says.
The new dicamba herbicides have been shown to be effective at attacking weeds, although it usually takes a few years to learn how to best use herbicides. Bradley says there were a few concerns about how it was working early in burndown situations, although that seemed to be due to the weather during application and how much was applied.
“That quickly went away,” he says. “I think people weren’t applying enough per acre. It usually takes three or four years to learn sensitivity to cold, wet weather. When they started spraying for waterhemp and Palmer amaranth, it was working well in June and July.”
However, Bradley recommends only spraying the dicamba herbicides during pre-emergence until they learn more about why it sometimes drifts.
“That’s my recommendation until I find out why when I apply in June and July sometimes it stays where it’s supposed to and sometimes it doesn’t,” he says. “We haven’t had any cases of off-target movement (during burndown spraying). All of our concerns have started when we started spraying for waterhemp post-emergence and Palmer amaranth post-emergence.”
Bradley understands not all farmers will follow this advice.
“It probably isn’t a message that’s received very well or followed very well, and that’s OK,” he says. “Because they feel like they need it on their waterhemp. But I have to do my job, too, and give recommendations.”