If off-target drift is a hot issue in a typical year, the challenge of off-target dicamba drift is flaming hot in 2017.

In Missouri alone, already more than 140 complaints by farmers who suspect off-target dicamba drift have been received by the Missouri Department of Agriculture in 2017. In Arkansas, nearly 600 complaints of the same had been made by July 10.

“The dicamba situation is unique and a little different from last year,” said Paul Bailey, program administrator with Missouri Department of Agriculture, during the annual Pesticide Management Forum at the University of Missouri’s Bradford Research Center July 7. “The dicamba incidences we had last year were isolated to southeast Missouri, particularly four counties in southeast Missouri. This year it is statewide.”

A variety of crops have been affected including Liberty Link and Roundup Ready soybeans, tomato plants, watermelons, grapes, pumpkins and several other types of vegetables.

“Last year 60 to 70 percent of the cases we investigated were from physical drift,” Bailey said. “About 30 percent were from volatilization. Remember last year there were no products registered in Missouri and individuals were using older chemistries that were not labeled by the Environmental Protection Agency for those uses.”

Bailey said this year it is a little different. He suspects older products are being used, even though newer products have received approval.

Kevin Bradley, associate professor in the Division of Plant Sciences at the University of Missouri, said for every case submitted to MDA for investigation there are another five not turned in. Bradley estimated more than 203,000 acres of soybeans have been damaged by drift in Missouri so far this year.

This year off-site movement of dicamba has occurred due to physical drift, nighttime spraying, tank contamination, use of generics and improper sprayer set up, according to Bradley. It has also occurred with use of the new formulations, daytime spraying and proper sprayer set up. Bradley said there is off-site movement of dicamba even when everything is done right.

“We need to have a better response from the industry, better than what I have seen,” Bradley said. “To act like this is not an issue is just irresponsible.”

At first Bradley said he was told these were just unsubstantiated claims. If that is the case, then there are over 600 unsubstantiated claims in Arkansas, 140 in Missouri, 55 in Mississippi and 77 in Tennessee.

“To act like this is not a problem, I can’t understand that mindset,” Bradley said.

Bradley said he has heard from farmers and industry representatives this is just like Roundup Ready or Liberty Link and a big deal is being made of nothing. Bradley disagrees with that assessment of the situation.

Bradley has been told that dicamba is being blamed when really it is just metolachlor injury.

“This is personal,” Bradley said. “That is just like saying. ‘Kevin, you don’t know what dicamba injury looks like.’”

Bradley has been told the dicamba injury is merely cosmetic and won’t cause yield loss. That’s not true, he explained.

“We have done as much work on this as anybody and I can’t walk out into a field even if it is V3 soybeans that has injury and tell with 100 percent confidence that there is no yield loss there,” Bradley said. “That answer is making a lot of farmers upset.”

Missouri’s Bootheel has 195,000 acres of dicamba-injured soybeans. Soybean producers there are influenced by the 300,000 acres of cotton grown there, 80 percent of which were planted to Xtend cotton varieties and nearly all of which were sprayed with dicamba. The Bootheel has 875,000 acres of soybeans, about 65 percent of which were planted to Xtend soybeans. Nearly all of these acres were sprayed with dicamba.

“We are not even close to those numbers in the rest of the state,” Bradley said.

Can other technologies survive in an Xtend world? Bradley said that is the question that needs to be answered as we move forward.

Doug Rich can be reached at 785-749-5304 or drich@hpj.com.

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