By Jessica Domel
Multimedia Reporter

Despite restrictions on its use in several other states, use of popular herbicide dicamba remains an option for Texas farmers.

To ensure the herbicide stays available for weed management, farmers, herbicide companies and state officials will need to continue working together, according to Ty Witten, North America Crop Protection lead for Monsanto.

“Unfortunately, we did have some issues last year that I think everybody’s well aware of. There were reports of off-target movement or suspected off-target movement due to dicamba and some of those things,” Witten said. “I think that as we move and as more people leave the farm and are coming in proximity to urban areas, the use and understanding of pesticide use becomes really important.”

Technology for planting, harvesting and everything in between continues to surpass what many would have forecast years ago.

That means it’s important for farmers and sprayers to stay up-to-date, so the industry can continue to move forward with these innovations.

“Now that technology for spray equipment’s continuing to advance as well and our capabilities as growers and applicators to have on-target application, the tools are there. It’s just adopting and getting those implemented on a farm and farm use,” Witten said.

It’s important for farmers to be aware of where they are spraying and what potentially sensitive crops may be nearby.

“Just have that social awareness that pesticides do move, and we need to be careful to apply appropriately according to product labels,” Witten said. “What I spray on my farm is really important to protect and to have choice on for my neighbor, so having that good conversation is important.”

It’s essential to ensure on-target applications of all pesticides, not just dicamba.

“We’ve got to do those things well or our other pesticides may be more restrictive or pulled away from us from a federal level,” Witten said.

Currently, Texas farmers must complete a mandatory auxin-specific training prior to using XtendiMax with Vapor Grip Technology, Fexapan Plus VaporGrip Technology and Engenia herbicide.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires the training, the listing of dicamba productions as a restricted use pesticide and record keeping of all applications for two years.

The products may only be used in the daylight hours.

A few other states with more complaints of dicamba drift damage, like Missouri, now limit the time period farmers can use dicamba.

“The Missouri Department of Agriculture and state of Missouri approved our new restricted use pesticide, Xtendimax, along with other dicamba approved for the Xtend Crop System,” Witten said. “The state bifurcated (Missouri) basically, having the boot heel have a cutoff date versus different cutoff dates for the remaining parts of the state.”

The problem is, according to Witten, Mother Nature didn’t get the memo.

“We’re definitely delayed planting in Missouri,” Witten said. “As you continue to move across the U.S., I think we’re about 15-20 days behind where we really want to be as you move from the boot heel up north.”

As a result, the Missouri Department of Agriculture allowed the 10 counties in the boot heel of the state to use dicamba through June 10. The rest of the state has until July 15.

Multiple deadlines and the delay can lead to confusion, especially for farmers and sprayers who work in more than one county.

Witten said it’s a good thing farmers in Texas do not have to deal with that this year.

“I really appreciate the way Texas, the Department of Agriculture and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service came alongside and worked with the industry at large—whether it was Monsanto or other registrants,” Witten said. “We really appreciated their proactive nature and proactive communication. I think we worked well to understand the need for weed control on your farm with diverse chemistry, and I think the collaborative relationship we have with the Texas Department of Agriculture has done well.”

With open communication between farmers, the Texas Department of Agriculture, chemical companies and training sessions on new uses of an old chemistry will keep restrictions like those seen in Missouri from being implemented here.

“Growers can recognize, ‘Hey, who is my neighbor? Do they have a sensitive crop around me? Should I spray today or should I not spray?’” Witten said. “I think that education step has gone well in many, many states. So I’m hoping Texas does not institute an arbitrary date like some other states have.”

It’s important farmers are able to use tools like dicamba and glyphosate now and in the years to come, Witten said.

“One thing we want to watch in working with our weed science community is it’s not a standalone chemistry,” Witten said. “The use of residuals and diverse mode of actions are also important for any herbicide use, but dicamba is a key component in these broadleaf crops like cotton and soybeans for controlling broadleaf weeds.”

Applicators are urged to read and follow label directions.