Matt Griggs will not spray dicamba on his crops this year. What’s more, he will not purchase any, does not want any on his farm.
“It comes with too much liability,” Griggs said during a break at the recent University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture’s Cotton Focus in Jackson.
Griggs and his wife, Kelly, farm in Crockett County, in the heart of the state’s cotton production region.
“Even if producers do everything right,” dicamba may not stay where it’s supposed to, Griggs says. “I don’t want to have any record of purchasing dicamba,” he adds. He explains that if drift or inversions occur, damaging nearby crops, determining exactly where the product originated will be, at best, difficult, leaving anyone who has used the product subject to liability. That’s more risk than he’s willing to take.
He says he’ll manage weeds without the new dicamba technology. He intends to plant cotton with the dicamba tolerant trait, however, “where those varieties are a good fit,” he says.
Kelly says managing the spray rig to accommodate the label requirements of dicamba application is burdensome. “It takes a lot of time out of the day. We can’t stay on the sprayer,” she adds, but may need to clean out and reload from field to field.
The Griggs’ crop mix will include cotton, corn, and soybeans double-cropped behind wheat.
Tommy Butner, another Crockett County cotton farmer, will use Engenia again this year on XtendFlex cotton. “Last year I had the cleanest crop I’d had in years,” Butner said following a dicamba training session at Alamo, Tennessee. He does recognize that some drift problems occurred last year, but says common sense will go a long way toward limiting damage. He adds that the dicamba products have provided excellent control on glyphosate resistant pigweed.
Training Session Well Attended
Many more area cotton farmers displayed their interest in continuing to use the dicamba technology. An estimated 100 or more farmers, consultants, and employees crowded into the electric co-op at Alamo to take mandatory dicamba training, required of anyone who will apply FeXapan, Engenia, or XtendiMax. The standing room only crowd watched a video moderated by Dr. Larry Steckel, professor, weed management, at the University of Tennessee.
Steckel warned the training participants that failure to provide proper stewardship of the dicamba products would give the industry “a black mark for a long time. It’s bad for crop protection and it’s bad for agriculture. New products will be hard to gain label approval.”
He said the auxin technology, including dicamba and 2,4-D products associated with new cotton seed traits, provide excellent tools to control resistant and hard-to-control weeds, but “have a few weak links.”
He says 2018 will be a make-or-break year for the technology. “EPA gives us one more chance to see if we can’t steward these products better.”
The mandatory training included new regulations from EPA and additional restrictions from Tennessee, limiting when and how the products may be applied. That includes calendar time and time of day. EPA regulations limit application of dicamba products “from daylight to dusk.” Tennessee state regulations take it a step further, 7:30 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. July 15 is the Tennessee cutoff date for all dicamba products for use on Xtend crops, unless applied by a hooded sprayer.
Producers should limit applications to wind speeds less than 10 miles per hour. That’s down from 15 under previous regulations.
The products — FeXapan, Engenia, and XtendiMax — are restricted use pesticides, and EPA now requires anyone who applies these products to be certified applicators and to complete the specific dicamba training.
Producers must maintain “specific application records,” and make them available for inspection within 24 hours of application. Tennessee will do “spot checks” in season to assure labels are followed.
Other restrictions include:
- Document that applicators locate or attempted to locate sensitive crops near the fields to be sprayed.
- Buffer zones of 110 feet downwind must be maintained when a half- pound rate of dicamba is applied. That buffer extends to 220 feet at a pound rate.
- If sensitive crops are downwind, do not spray.
- Start with a clean sprayer.
- Apply approved dicamba products only with approved nozzles.
- Use nozzles at recommended pressure.
- Do not run the sprayer over 15 miles per hour.
- Keep boom at 24 inches above target.
- End with a clean sprayer.
- Only apply Engenia, XtendiMax, and FeXapan to Xtend crops.
- Only make Engenia, XtendiMax, and FeXapan applications at wind speeds between 3 and 10 miles per hour.
- Do not use AMS.
- Only tank mix with approved pesticides.
- Apply approved dicamba formulations to weeds less than 4 inches tall.
- Avoid spraying into temperature inversions.
- Observe rain-free intervals.
- Keep thorough records.
“The stakes couldn’t be higher,” Steckel said. “We have no illusions that if we don’t do a good job of stewardship of dicamba in 2018, registration for dicamba will go away. If EPA determines that the frequency of drift gets worse, registration will go away.”
A representative from the Tennessee Department of Agriculture said adhering to the label is critical and failure to do so could result in “steep fines, loss of license and lawsuits.”
Tennessee Commissioner of Agriculture Jai Templeton, speaking at the Cotton Focus seminar the day after the dicamba training, said public opinion is an important concern with dicamba application. “We have to do it right,” he said. “Farmers have to do the best job they can to protect the technology.”
He said following the label is imperative and that protecting sensitive crops, including landscapes, will be crucial to keep the technology. “If in doubt on any given day, just don’t spray,” he said.
Some farmers and consultants wonder if the timing restrictions will limit how much dicamba will be used. In some cases, producers will have an extremely narrow window to apply the product. Weather and other factors that prevent timely application also will challenge producers to make timely, effective applications within label restrictions.