Herbicide applicators have the weight of dicamba’s future weighing heavily on their shoulders this year. EPA’s conditional registration lasts through Dec. 20, 2020, and the herbicide’s safety tests, label and real-world experiences will be scrutinized.
“This year we have four soybean traits that don’t coexist chemicals used in each system can cause damage to the others,” says Jean Payne, president of the Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association. “The management is going to be so important.”
Illinois had 720 complaints of off-target dicamba movement in 2019. Nearly 500 of those complaints were from farmers who had never filed a complaint before. In 2020, there will likely be more people planting Enlist E3 soybeans and LibertyLink GT27 soybeans as they’re relatively newly available or recently had herbicide partners approved.
“I don’t think symptomology on soybeans will be the undoing of dicamba,” Payne says. “It’s what we’ve observed in tree species after two to three years of exposure There are concerns from Department of Natural Resource-type agencies.”
What’s in a review?
Dicamba is under EPA review again this year. During this process, EPA opens a ‘docket’ where it reviews a variety of factors concerning the pesticide. Essentially, the agency is trying to weigh the risk to the environment with benefits to the producers to find the best outcome. Here’s what you’d find in a Preliminary Work Plan from EPA:
- Facts about the pesticide and its current use and usage.
- Risk assessment and any data needs.
- Estimated timeline for review.
After the docket is published, it goes through a 60-day comment period where anyone can show their support or opposition of the product. Dicamba’s docket will be posted later this year when EPA announces its review.
Approval Likely for Dicamba
With so many acres of dicamba-tolerant soybeans, it’s hard to imagine dicamba won’t be approved, Payne says. Not approving it could open up the temptation for farmers, who wouldn’t have access to a legal product, to turn to older, more volatile formulations.
“It’s in EPA’s best interest to approve and allow states to have more control over the application process,” she adds.
EPA could allow states to control cut-off dates and temperature restrictions, for example.
“We saw cotton and soybeans increase to about 60 million acres in 2019, and about 40 million were sprayed with dicamba,” says Alex Zenteno, dicamba product manager for Bayer. “Label updates for 2019 helped to ensure Xtendimax can continue to be used, that’s why we had label updates to reduce possibility of off-target movement. We’re sharing additional data this year, and so did other registrants.”
EPA has and will continue to reach out to registrants for more information about how the product is performing. In addition, the agency will study university tests.
“We continue to work with the EPA as they consider a registration renewal for Engenia herbicide in 2020. Additionally, we continue to work with academics, NGOs, and state and federal agencies to address concerns they may have about the use of dicamba-based products. Dicamba-based herbicides, like Engenia herbicide, are critically important tools for growers battling resistant weeds,” BASF said in a statement.
Claims of off-target movement will need to be addressed by registrants in time for the 2021 decision.
“Corteva Agriscience stands by the effectiveness of FeXapan when used according to the label and we intend to vigorously defend against claims of off-target movement,” the company said in a statement.
Right now, there are four registrants for over-the-top dicamba: BASF with Engenia, Bayer with XtendiMax, Corteva with FeXapan and Syngenta with Tavium.