The above picture shows significant cupping of leaves from dicamba drift on non-Xtend soybeans planted next to Xtend beans in research plots maintained by the Kansas State Research and Extension office at Ashland Bottoms farm in Kansas. (photo via flickr)
The above picture shows significant cupping of leaves from dicamba drift on non-Xtend soybeans planted next to Xtend beans in research plots maintained by the Kansas State Research and Extension office at Ashland Bottoms farm in Kansas. (photo via flickr)

PUTNAM COUNTY — Dicamba, a controversial herbicide often applied to soybeans has been renewed by the federal EPA for an additional two years, with some changes made to the labeling and applicator requirements.

As previously reported in the Sentinel in Nov. of last year, the agricultural giant Monsanto first released dicamba-resistant cotton and soybean seeds in 2016 after so-called “superweeds” developed resistance to Roundup. Soon after, complaints from other farmers started coming-in.

As reported by CropLife, after receiving over 600 complaints about drift in the state, Arkansas banned the herbicide in 2017 for 120 days. A short while later, Missouri followed with a, “Stop sale, use, or removal,” order of its own.

The issue is one of ‘volatility’ - industry-speak for an herbicide’s likelihood of evaporating and drifting onto neighboring fields where it damages any vegetation, be it crop or weed, not genetically modified to resist the chemical.

“We’re all pretty convinced there’s a volatility issue that’s really hard to control,” said Dr. Mark Loux with the Department of Horticulture and Crop Science at The Ohio State University in Nov. 2017. “Monsanto’s position is, oh, we just retrain everybody and it’s all training and that’ll take care of it.”

While crop scientists may disagree with Monsanto, the slight adjustments made by the Federal EPA upon renewing the herbicide indicates that the department seemingly agrees with the agricultural giant. The new requirements and restrictions primarily tighten application rules, they include:

• Only certified applicators may apply dicamba over the top (those working under the supervision of a certified applicator may no longer make applications);

• Prohibition on over-the-top application of dicamba on soybeans 45 days after planting;

• Applications will be allowed only from one hour after sunrise to two hours before sunset;

• In counties where endangered species may exist, the downwind buffer will remain at 110 feet and there will be a new 57-foot buffer around the other sides of the field (the 110-foot downwind buffer applies to all applications, not just in counties where endangered species may exist);

• Enhanced tank clean out instructions for the entire system;

• Clarified training periods for 2019 and beyond, ensuring consistency across products;

• Enhanced label to improve applicator awareness on the impact of low pH’s on the potential volatility of dicamba;

• Label clean up and consistency to improve compliance and enforceability.

The Ohio Dept. of Agriculture, through its Deputy Communications Director, Brett Gates, reported that there were 52 dicamba-related complaints in all of Ohio in 2018. According to Beth Scheckelhoff, Putnam County AGNR extension educator, the issue of dicamba drift has not been as severe in the Putnam County area as it has in other states, “We have had several incidents in Putnam County over the last two years,” she says, “But, not on as large of a scale as other areas of the country.”

“Farmers have the option of discussing directly with the applicator and trying to resolve the situation. They can also contact ODA which will investigate whether there has been an error in application based on the pesticide label. ODA does not get involved in any restitution issues, only whether the Ohio pesticide law has been violated. This is why it is very important for applicators to keep accurate, detailed records of their pesticide applications.”

According to Scheckelhoff, trainings are often carried out by distributor and ag business organizations, and can typically bed done online or via in-person sessions. The extension office also has recertification classes scheduled for next year. More information on those classes may be found online through this link: https://pested.osu.edu/privaterecertification.