What Will Dicamba Tolerance Mean?

December 2, 2016 02:55 AM
What Will Dicamba Tolerance Mean?

Mikey Taylor cracks 100-bu. soybeans, while waiting for label approval

Don’t try to tell Mikey Taylor forbidden fruit tastes best. Herbicide sins are one ill wind away from exposure, at least when transgressions involve dicamba. In the spring of 2016, Taylor ripped open sacks filled with dicamba-tolerant soybeans and punched the load into his southeast Arkansas ground. When Taylor broke the 100-bu.-per-acre mark, he did so in straight-laced fashion, in direct contrast to the dicamba debacle of 2016.

In a silt loam field rotated from corn, Asgrow 47X6 churned out a top yield in the Arkansas Soybean Association’s Grow for the Green contest. Producers across the U.S., particularly in Arkansas, Mississippi and the Missouri Bootheel, planted large tracts of dicamba-tolerant soybeans in 2016, yet many gave in to temptation, illegally hammering stands with volatile chemicals that blistered the crops of adjoining neighbors.

Taylor drew a clear line in his dirt, a boundary of demarcation between right and wrong. He never made any oddly timed May or June purchase of dicamba, and when Palmer stormed particular fields, as he knew it inevitably would, he gritted his teeth and looked toward 2017, hopeful of a label. 

“The worst part of this dicamba mess is watching my friends get hammered,” Taylor says. “The farmers spraying dicamba illegally aren’t hiding it. They know we’ll find out and just don’t care.”

With EPA’s November approval of XtendiMax (basically a new dicamba formula), an additional chemical tool is now knocking on the door of the 2017 crop season. How might this new weed weapon affect Taylor’s future soybean production?

Taylor is well ahead of the curve on soil fertility and management techniques. As one of the first growers in Arkansas to use a cover-cattle rotation, he is also likely the first in the state to break 100 bu. per acre after planting into a cover crop. 


H​e treated seed with Cruiser and planted at a 145,000 population on 30" rows April 9, drilling into a cover of cereal rye, radish and black oats killed two weeks prior with Sharpen. With an odd July, Taylor got 9" of moisture spread across multiple rains in the middle of summer and only needed to irrigate the soybeans three times. “That was God’s blessing. Let’s be clear: I didn’t make those big yields by myself,” he says.

After pod set, the stand appeared promising to crop consultant Ed Whatley. “Mikey got planting in early and matched seed to soil,” Whatley says. “You throw in his phenomenal fertility, timeliness and emphasis on inputs, and it was the total yield package.”

Before harvest, Taylor salted the soybeans with 1 gal. per acre, and began cutting Sept. 15: 101.32 bu. per acre. 

Knowing the finale of the dicamba-tolerant soybeans, how much might a new label boost production? “No question, a label would have given me better beans across the board,” Taylor says. “The very worst pigweed field I had on my farm was in dicamba beans and it was so bad we almost didn’t harvest. I’d have gotten major savings if I could have cleaned up those beans.”

In 2016, Taylor grew 435 acres of dicamba-tolerant soybeans; he plans to go to 100% in 2017. “When you fool with another man’s livelihood, terrible things happen and we’ve seen that with dicamba this year. I’m looking forward to the legal technology and doing things the right way.”  

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