Daily Dicamba Update: Q&A with Amy Asmus (Part 2)

Today CropLife brings you part two of our conversation with Amy Asmus, Owner/agronomist at Asmus Farm Supply based in Rake, IA. Asmus shares her views on why the discussion around the new dicamba-tolerant technologies has a long way to go toward finding a solution. Read part one here.

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CL: Were the drift cases you saw more in Iowa, or also Minnesota, and were you able to identify causes?

Daily Dicamba Update: Q&A with Amy Asmus (Part 2)

Harlan and Amy Asmus, Asmus Farm Supply

No. Dicamba is an equal opportunity drifter. Some of the problems were due to operator error. Some were temperature inversions. Some we could not pinpoint why it moved. Some growers did everything according to the label, the way we were taught to apply it correctly: They had the right tips, the right boom height, the right winds, and everything according to what we were told, and it moved. It was frustrating.

I heard a speaker from BASF out in Arlington at the Weed Science Society of America meeting say that 98% of drift was due to applicator error, and I will say that’s BS. We’re still at that point where everybody is pointing fingers at everybody else, which is not working toward a solution. We have to figure out why it really moved, and how we address that. I sound like a naysayer, but dicamba’s a great tool, and some people need it.

CL: You will have more dicamba acreage this year, I’m assuming.

We are going to have more applied this year. It will be about 50% of our soybean sales, and half of that will be sprayed with dicamba. Some of that is driven by the grower’s choice of seed. Of course, seed companies are pushing that trait. Growers often think, ‘If the trait is in the seed, I might as well use the chemistry over the top.’ Our numbers may be skewed a little, because we don’t custom apply; some of our growers may be purchasing their dicamba products from someone who will apply it.

CL: With all of the additional sales, are you being inundated with questions and is there a lot of concern, or are people are not that worried?

I think people are taking it seriously. BASF held a training at our location that we specifically directed at our growers, and there are a number of public trainings as well. But we had enough interest that we wanted to host one ourselves and make sure our people were there. It’s not a lackadaisical, ‘I did my training, I’m just going to spray over the top and not worry about what happened.’ They are going to the training, listening to it, and for the most part, are taking it seriously. We get a few that say, ‘I have sprayed for dicamba for years; I shouldn’t have to sit through this.’ But it’s different. It’s a different time of year, and it’s a different cropping system – it’s not early-post. It’s post.

Growers are taking it seriously, but so are insurance companies. At the end of last year, we had a lot of reports of insurance companies saying, ‘If you spray this, then I’m not going to cover any off-target movement.’ I haven’t heard a lot of that at the beginning of this season, so I don’t know how much of that is still out there.

But it seemed at the end of last season that the regulations may have come from the liability coverage, which is sad – that ag could be regulated by the insurance agency. I haven’t heard a lot of talk about growers saying, ‘I can’t use it because my insurance won’t cover it.’ Maybe we’ll hear more of that.

CL: Earlier, you said some growers drifted, yet they did everything right. Was that a sizeable portion of the complaints, and how did you feel about the technology when you saw that they did everything apparently according to the label?

It’s hard to say, but I wouldn’t say it was a small portion. I won’t say it was the majority either.

When we saw a lot of things move, it was timing, and it was warmer. So we’ve got the timing issue and the temperature issue that I think isn’t necessarily fully addressed in the labeling. The (drift) that was unexplainable, it seemed like it was sprayed later in the season and the temperatures were warmer. That’s something that we need to address.

I don’t necessarily like the states putting a cut-off date on applications. What I would like to see them do is say, ‘No application after this growth stage in your field or the bordering fields.’ If my field is still in a vegetative state but the field next to me was planted early and it’s already at R2, then you shouldn’t be able to spray it.

Especially this year: I’m sitting in the middle of May and we’ve got almost nothing planted because of the weather. If you set a date, it doesn’t take into account any of the growth stages or planting varieties from year to year.

CL: I guess it seems just simpler for regulators to set a date and say, ‘That’s it.’

Well, I think it’s easier to enforce. ‘It’s after this date, so I don’t have to go out and actually look at the stages of the fields or the fields around them.’ I think that tends to be an ease of enforcement type of thing, but it’s not right.

CL: What are your feelings on how things will go this year with all the expanded acreage in your region?

I think it will look better. I think we will have fewer complaints, and I think the reason is that more of the acres will be dicamba resistant. You’ll have fewer susceptible beans out there, therefore I think you’ll have less symptoms of off-target movement. I think because there are more sales of traited seed out there, we’ll see fewer symptoms or complaints.

CL: Is one of the major things you saw reinforced at the trainings not using dicamba as a rescue and the importance of planning?

Yes. Just because it’s in-season doesn’t mean it’s a late-season decision. I consider this now in-season, and December was planned. We talk about how weeds have to be shorter than 4 inches – we gave out kits with rulers marked ‘4 inches’ maximum weed height. WinField United provided the kits, and they were sponsored by Monsanto as well. It also had ‘24 inches’ marked for maximum boom height.

The correct way to apply it, whether they buy it preseason in a planned booking or whether they buy it this time of year, which is an in-season purchase, we’re very thorough about things – this is what you need to do. Our training of our growers may be higher than a retail business that applies themselves. The grower doesn’t need to know all of the rules if they aren’t doing their own applications. Education by grower varies and depends on whether they are spraying themselves or paying a custom applicator to spray it.

CL: Do any of the label requirements raise eyebrows more than others?

Of the new changes that EPA put in place after last season, the one that raises the most eyebrows is application timing: sunup to sundown. That’s to prevent those temperature inversions that everybody’s talking about. It does limit when we can spray, because when the sun comes up, sometimes the wind comes up. When the sun comes down sometimes the wind goes down. So it does take out some of those times when there might be a chance of temperature inversion, but not all the time is there an inversion.

Instead of limiting timing of the applications, teach them more about what to look for in a temperature inversion. It cuts a a lot of time out of the window to spray, especially in Iowa, which is so windy anyway. We have some large growers that self-apply, but for the most part it’s not as difficult as it is for a custom applicator who has thousands and thousands of acres to cover in a set period of time.

CL: Did you recommend any of the new tools, like a temperature inversion detector? Were any of these figuring into their plans?

No. We talked about temperature inversions, and to watch the fog in the morning, and if the fog is hanging there, don’t spray. It was more intuitive what to look for and not technical tools. It was good old human intuition (laughs).

CL: Is there anything else you wanted to talk about?

I just hope that it’s better this year. Hopefully, everything we’ve done will make it better this year. Dicamba is a tool we need, and I would hate to see another year like last year and have EPA decide that people cannot steward the tool in a way that’s acceptable on this cropping system. I just hope everybody pays attention, including mother nature, to help us use it with less complaints and off-target movement, because it is a very important tool. Maybe we have to use it only preemergently, but I would hate to lose it altogether.

CL: You never saw any complaints with the older corn dicamba?

We did, but some people just complained (laughs). With the corn dicamba products, they are very early. So with corn, you roll and go. Beans are hardly out of the ground and it’s much earlier, so what we’re seeing with the movement is more geared toward the timing and the temperature. It’s a different timing window with corn.

CL: When will we see spraying in Iowa?

(Laughs) When are we going to get the seed in the ground? Nothing yet.

In Iowa, I know Mike Owen and Bob Hartzler – who are two weed scientists at Iowa State University – have encouraged people to use dicamba earlier than later. If they had their way, spraying would be in a preemergent or very early postemergent window. I’d like to think some of our growers respect what they say, and will use it as a very early post with residual.

Because we don’t have beans or much corn in the ground, I can’t give you a date, but I would hope the timing would fit into that preemergent or very early postemergent time frame for the beans, and not that just-before-flowering window. With the rain keeping us out, the weeds are there. In this situation we have this season, the weeds I believe are going to be bigger in the field than what we normally see at early stages of growth, just because we don’t have crops in the ground and the weeds are growing anyway. So, it will be very important for them to watch weed height.

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