Herbicide Systems 2.0: Life Beyond Dicamba

Dicamba has enjoyed a long and productive life in the weed control world. Velsicol Chemical Co. introduced dicamba under the brand name “Banvel” back in 1967, and it has been a reliable weapon in the arsenal of retailers for the past 45 years.

Now, dicamba is being prepared to take center stage in the next battle against Glyphosate-resistant weeds that have significantly compromised the effectiveness of the standard Roundup Ready System. An entirely new program featuring a new trait and a dicamba formulation “face lift” is being prepared that will provide a new weed control option for your growers.

According to BASF, dicamba is the fifth most widely used herbicide worldwide with approximately over 20 million acres treated, and thus far there has been little reported resistance developed to the chemical.

Dicamba works simply by mimicking a naturally occurring plant hormone, thus causing uncontrollable growth in the targeted weed. At high levels of exposure, the growth becomes so severe that the unwanted plant, or weed, dies off as a result. Dicamba, which usually comes ready to tank mix in a salt form, has several accepted methods of application, including ground or aerial broadcast, soil treatment, injection and spot treatment. It is reported to be both highly mobile in and poorly absorbed by most soil types, especially the harder Midwestern clay-based soils, further advancing the need for careful application and proper stewardship.

“BASF has more than 50 years of experience working with the dicamba molecule,” said Mike Hofer, BASF Corn Market Manager. “And throughout those 50 years we’ve constantly innovated the molecule. If you look back to when we introduced Banvel, and then Clarity back in 1992, and now on Engenia, in each step we’ve made advancements in the formulation to decrease volatility.”

With this advanced formulation, BASF’s goal was to reduce volatility dramatically, says Hofer. “In fact,  we have five different methods to measure volatility and each method proves that Engenia will be the lowest volatility formulation of dicamba on the market.”

“Volatility is obviously a concern with dicamba and other similar molecules like 2,4-D,” says Dan Wright, Monsanto’s Dicamba Formulation Development Lead. “But dicamba’s (volatility) is also really pretty low and difficult to measure, so we have to use sophisticated methods to measure it.”

One test is the use of a Humidome, which involves spraying and then covering flats of soil with a plastic dome, then pulling air through the dome to expedite and better measure the volitalizing process.

“It takes us pulling air through the Humidome for 24 hours to be able to get enough of the material to be able to test for it,” he continued. “We’re looking for parts-per-trillion in the air, and that’s like putting an eye dropper of liquid int an Olympic size swimming pool.”

The Humidome trial revealed that Engenia, when compared with Banvel and Clarity, offers a 40% reduction in volatility.

The Spray Drift Question

Another area of important concern with dicamba, besides the volatility of the chemical itself, is spray drift. Dicamba is highly mobile in both the air and soil, as well as toxic to a wide variety of sensitive plants. So even with reduced volatilization built into the new formula, it is still a significant factor that must be accounted for when applying dicamba.

“They’re going to have to prove to the EPA that they have a product that not only controls weeds as well as the stuff we’ve been using, but also poses a lower risk for off-site movement,” says Bill Johnson, Professor of Weed Sciences at Purdue University. “There’s going to be a lot of pressure on them to do those kind of things in order to get this technology approved.”

According to Wright, one of the most difficult aspects of diagnosing spray drift is the length of time it takes for symptoms to appear.

“What happens with auxin herbicides like dicamba is that it takes about a week to 14 days before you start seeing spray drift damage,” says Wright. “So, a lot of growers think ‘Well, I didn’t see that injury for a week or more so the material must’ve gotten up and walked off the field after I sprayed it.’

“In reality it was probably some kind of spray drift, like spraying in a high-wind situation or with the wrong nozzle,” he continues. “So, it really happened when you actually applied it, but you don’t see that effect until a week or two weeks later.”

“Like with any crop protection product, spray drift must be managed,” says Hofer. “One of the things were currently doing in the market is stressing our “Triple A Activity” with herbicides. So, that’d be using the proper adjuvant, the proper air induction nozzle, and of course training applicators on making sure they’re cognizant of air space.”

Training Needed

Providing hands-on expertise to those applicators is the purpose of the 2012 On Target Application Academy, through which BASF and Monsanto recognized the opportunity to educate applicators alongside Dr. Robert E. Wolf, Manager of Wolf Consulting and Research LLC and an Application Technology Specialist for TeeJet Technologies Inc.

“We’re really proud to be launching our On Target Application Spray Academy, which is specifically designed to help growers and retailers understand how to apply crop protection products properly,” says Hofer.

The academy will be held throughout the year all over the country at industry events and is a free program that includes classroom presentations and hands-on learning opportunities. The sessions will reportedly cover an array of topics including:

  • Best practices for self-application.
  • Adjuvants.
  • Calibration.
  • Equipment clean-out.
  • Nozzle selection and demonstration.
  • Plant Biology.
  • Sprayer set up.
  • Understanding product labels.

“Obviously the number one goal of any application is to have good weed control, and right along beside that you have to have good drift management practices,” says Dr. Wolf. “We need to get growers and commercial applicators in the frame of mind that, if they are going to apply these products, they need to select and use a spray nozzle correctly so that they don’t create the drift that is possible when using some of the older spray nozzle technologies.”

“We’ve done a tremendous amount of work in understanding what types of nozzles we want to recommend and selecting those that will reduce drift, keeping this product on target,” said Joe Sandbrink, Monsanto Product Development Manager. “This going to be a great tool in addition to our Roundup Ready Plus solutions.”

Avoiding More Resistance

Aside from spray drift, another concern with increased dicamba use is the prospect of developing a resistance in some weeds down the road due to an overuse of the technology.

“I think history has hopefully taught us, and any of the companies that claim that it will never happen – that it will happen,” says Johnson of dicamba-resistance. “We already have dicamba-resistant weeds so it’s not like anyone can stand there and say it’s never going to happen. How soon will it happen? It’s really hard to tell. But we’re at the point now where we need new tools for soybeans, and dicamba is certainly going to help us in that regard.”

Specifically, dicamba-resistant waterhemp is one weed that experts expect will present a significant challenge.

“Certainly the biggest concern right now is dicamba-resistant waterhemp,” says Dr. Ian Heap of the Weed Science Society of America. “It has already evolved and with the adoption of the new synthetic auxin-tolerant crops there will be widespread resistance in waterhemp.”

Still, even with the growing possibility of increased resistance, Heap cautions against completely writing off such a useful tool.

“As with any herbicide site of action, if it is overused it will fail,” says Heap of the Engenia formulation. “But we don’t condemn the technology, as it will be very useful in rotation/combination with glyphosate. We just caution people on overreliance.”

One way to avoid dicamba overreliance is using the herbicide in combination with other weed management strategies, such as field scouting and in pre-and post-application tank mixes fortified with glyphosate.

“If anything it’s not just one thing, its multiple ways to control weeds in a system,” says Hofer. “It’s a systematic approach for weed control. There’s certainly no magic bullet and because of that we need to integrate a planned approach to weed control. There’s a strong history of successful applications with dicamba and certainly we recognize that Engenia will be a part of that successful ongoing history moving forward.”

Leave a Reply

6 comments on “Herbicide Systems 2.0: Life Beyond Dicamba

  1. As an applicator of pesticides I do Not believe a 40% reduction in volatility will be enough to address the issues of this product. Also through labeling the marketers of these products are able to shift the liability of off site movement from themselves to the users and applicators of these products. In my opinion the risks of using these products outweigh the benefits in most situations.

State of the Industry Stories
State of the IndustryAgriculture’s Troubled Waters
March 3, 2014
Water quantity and quality issues threaten to hamper agriculture on a wider scale in the not-too-distant future. Technology breakthroughs and improved practices are providing potential solutions. Read More
State of the IndustrySponsor Profiles: Simplot, SST And WinField Support CropLife State Of The Industry Report
January 8, 2014
The sponsor partners of the CropLife State of the Industry report have demonstrated ongoing leadership including their support of this report. Read More
State of the Industry2014 State Of The Industry: Agricultural Concerns Creep In
January 2, 2014
With many strong sales years under its belt, the agricultural community is hoping for another positive growth experience in 2014, but mindful of a few challenges that might keep this from happening. Read More
State of the IndustrySeed Systems Top Watch List
January 2, 2014
Retailers are closely following herbicide tolerance and drought resistance traits. Read More
Top 100 Articles
CropLife 100BRANDT Commemorates National Ag Day
March 20, 2015
The Illinois agriculture community gathered at BRANDT global headquarters on March 18 to celebrate National Ag Day behind this year's theme Sustaining Future Generations. Read More
Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
CropLife 100Wheat Growers, North Central Farmers Elevator Pursue Merger
March 3, 2015
Two CropLife 100 retailers — South Dakota Wheat Growers (ranked No. 11) and North Central Farmers Elevator (No. 19) — have entered into a Letter of Intent to unify the two companies into a newly named cooperative. Read More
Growmark Group
CropLife 100GROWMARK In 2015: Back, To The Future
March 2, 2015
The nation’s third largest ag retail organization is simultaneously moving forward while remembering its past. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Expands Sanders Brand In The South
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle has acquired Hopkins Seed and Chemical in Qulin, MO, which expands the company's Sanders brand to nine Southern states. Read More
CropLife 100Pinnacle Launches New Providence Agriculture Location In Indiana
February 27, 2015
Pinnacle Agriculture Holdings — ranked No. 6 on the CropLife 100 — has established a new retail location in New Castle, IN, which will operate as part of Pinnacle's Providence Agriculture brand. Read More
Carl Casale of CHS
CropLife 100Cooperative CHS Returns $518 Million To Owners
February 23, 2015
The 2015 cash return to owners is based on CHS net income of $1.1 billion, the company's second highest on record. Read More
Latest News
Nachurs Alpine Solutions, Liquid fertilizer, micronutrients, facility
MicronutrientsYara Launching YaraVita Procote Liquid Micronutrients
March 31, 2015
Yara North America, Inc. broadens its fertilizer coating offerings with the introduction of YaraVita Procote, oil-based micronutrient liquid suspensions that Read More
Industry NewsINCOTEC Board Member To Retire
March 31, 2015
JanWillem Breukink has decided to retire from his position on INCOTEC’s Board of Directors, effective April 1, 2015. This was Read More
MicronutrientsAgrium Deals Michigan Micronutrient Facility To Cameron…
March 31, 2015
Cameron Chemicals, Inc. has announced today that it has entered into a definitive agreement with Agrium Inc. to purchase the Read More
Industry NewsH.J. Baker Creates, Fills New Pacific Northwest Sales P…
March 30, 2015
H.J. Baker announced today that Gary Bingham has joined the company’s Crop Performance Division to further deepen its sales portfolio Read More
Algal blooms
StewardshipStudy: Algae From Clogged Waterways Could Be Used As Bi…
March 30, 2015
Water-borne algal blooms from farm fertilizer runoff can destroy aquatic life and clog rivers and lakes, but scientists are reporting Read More
Young corn plants
Stewardship4R Nutrient Stewardship Summit Coming To DC
March 30, 2015
The annual 4R Nutrient Stewardship Summit will be held on May 12 in Washington DC. The summit will include a full Read More
FungicidesSyngenta Suing Willowood Over Azoxystrobin Fungicide
March 27, 2015
Syngenta announced today that it has sued agrochemical maker Willowood, LLC., for patent and copyright infringement, as well as unfair Read More
ManagementRetail Week: The Future Of Mycogen Seeds; The 4Rs At Na…
March 27, 2015
Editors Eric Sfiligoj and Matt Hopkins discuss recent trips, including a look at the future of Mycogen Seeds at Dow Read More
Eric SfiligojMonsanto Hears The WHO
March 27, 2015
Another challenge to the safety of glyphosate, and the responses from supporters and opponents, calls to mind a classic Dr. Seuss story. Read More
Industry NewsMonty’s Plant Food Expands Sales Team
March 27, 2015
Monty’s Plant Food Company, a leader in natural soil enhancement and  plant fertility products, has hired Andrew Bullock as a Read More
Crop InputsSyngenta Louisiana Plant Poised For 2015 Production
March 26, 2015
As the 2015 planting season gets underway, growers across the country will need crop protection products to combat pests and Read More
Lake Erie Nutrient Stewardship
LegislationOhio Lawmakers Finalize Phosphorus Restrictions
March 25, 2015
State lawmakers on Wednesday finalized new rules designed to curb toxic algal blooms on Lake Erie, calling the regulations a major step forward in addressing the problem. Read More
Spreaders17 Fertilizer Spreaders For 2015
March 25, 2015
Manufacturers shoot for versatility and accuracy in this year's crop of fertilizer spreaders. Read More
Industry NewsMonty’s Hires Mid-South Product Consultant
March 25, 2015
Monty's Plant Food Co. has hired Matt Woodring as a Product Consultant for portions of Central Kentucky and Tennessee.    Read More
StewardshipMapShots Integrates With DriftWatch
March 23, 2015
Growers and agricultural providers using AgStudio FARM and AgStudio PRO can now view vital information about specialty crops and apiaries through a recent integration with the DriftWatch Specialty Crop Site Registry from FieldWatch, Inc. Read More
Crop InputsWorld Health Organization Report Contradicts Scientific…
March 23, 2015
A new report from the World Health Organization has classified glyphosate with a “2A” rating as a probable carcinogen, a Read More
Eric SfiligojSeed Treatment Stays Necessary
March 20, 2015
Grower-customers looking to scale back spending in 2015 won’t consider seed treatment, say experts. Read More
HerbicidesMARCH MADNESS: Industry Rallies Around Glyphosate Safet…
March 20, 2015
A newly published report from the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classifies the herbicide glyphosate as a "2A-rated possible carcinogen" and the ag industry responds by circling the wagons. Read More