Oct. 24, 2017
By Jay Vroom, President and CEO at CropLife America
Over the past couple months, you may have noticed stories in the news about reports of dicamba-related crop damage in several states across the U.S. It is important to understand the history and background of this crucial crop protection tool. To combat increasingly herbicide-resistant weeds, new biotech trait technology was developed in cotton, soybean and other crops, to allow dicamba to be sprayed over the crop and provide growers with a proven herbicide to manage these difficult weeds. Dicamba is an excellent broad-spectrum herbicide that has been used for more than 50 years to manage 200 broadleaf weeds. Dicamba works by mimicking auxin, a plant growth hormone, disrupting cell division and altering normal growth patterns. There can be issues with volatility when using dicamba, especially in warmer weather, and this can lead to unexpected off-target movement. Volatility occurs when an herbicide, once applied, converts from a liquid or solid into a gaseous form after application and may drift elsewhere to condense on plants or other surfaces. However, new formulations of dicamba were developed to reduce volatility.
The recent innovations in traits and low volatility dicamba formulations were developed to be used together. They have been extensively tested and approved for use by both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). To be clear, only the new dicamba formulations can be used for over the top (foliar) applications on the newly developed dicamba-tolerant crops.
There are some important points to highlight. First, dicamba is a critical crop protection tool; it is critical for weed control and resistance management programs. Farmers have used dicamba effectively and safely for decades, applying per the EPA approved label. As with every other crop protection tool, companies that register products provide ongoing training opportunities and other stewardship support. Regarding the use of new dicamba formulations in accordance with their labels, applicators can find more information about training and stewardship by visiting BASF’s Grow Smart University website
, DuPont’s training module website
and Monsanto’s training website
Second, it is imperative to understand that investigations regarding drift and volatility claims are ongoing. States and the EPA, as well as registrants, are collecting and analyzing details in order to develop informed next steps. In response to complaints made over the last couple months, some states have taken temporary actions. As the investigations progress and details become available, states will revisit those actions. EPA will also consider what it may or may not do.
Third, the companies that register these products are committed to ensuring that dicamba is used properly and these issues are resolved. Dicamba registrants are working with all parties, including state regulators, farmers, distributors and applicators, to find solutions to concerns. The companies are also engaged with officials at all levels of government to ensure transparency and resolution.
The EPA regulates and registers all pesticides after years of diligent and thorough testing, and dicamba is no exception. EPA shares regulatory responsibility with most states. To date, millions of acres have been treated using weed control trait/herbicide systems successfully without problem. To be sure, there are real concerns that must be understood and resolved. CropLife America supports the states’ further investigation into the incidents and is pleased to see the cooperation between the companies and state governments to find a solution to this issue. We’re confident that these current issues, as vexing as they may seem today, will be understood, resolved and this important technology will serve agriculture long into the future. Weed resistance is always a critical concern, and with the crop and farm income pressures currently facing farmers, it’s never been more important to ensure that they have all the tools available to deploy in the battle to manage resistance.
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