Daily Dicamba Update: Q&A with Monsanto’s Rubischko (Part 2)

Today is part two of CropLife‘s recent conversation with Ryan Rubischko, Dicamba Portfolio Lead with Monsanto. He offers his take on new tools from Monsanto aimed at helping custom applicators and growers in the dicamba application process. Read part one of the interview here.

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CL: Can you talk about some of the new tools like the various mobile apps – how important are these in the scheme of things?

We launched a new Roundup Ready Xtend spray app in late February, providing new features for farmers and applicators to forecast their applications. What’s unique about this particular spray app versus the tools that were available previously, or lack thereof, is that it provides an inversion risk forecast. Most pesticide labels already have on them, ‘Don’t spray during an inversion,’ but there hadn’t been previously a lot of tools to help farmers understand what that may look like. Just like we have a weather forecasting tool, it’s really taking a similar approach in terms of inversion forecast and what is that inversion risk, built on a percentage. Some days there can be a much higher risk, in the morning or around sunset hours, and some days it’s just the opposite.

One other piece of that app is that it provides wind speed and direction at the boom height. A lot of what most of us have on our phones is a weather app that typically measures at 10 meters, so over 30 feet. We built models working with Climate Corp. to be able to bring more relevant weather information and forecasting to more normal conditions which would follow the label as well. There are others that have also developed apps, so just having a broad access for farmers on a number of tools to forecast sprays is one piece.

CL: Can you talk about Monsanto’s new sprayer clean-out technology?

We just announced a new spray system cleaner. There are a number of tank cleaners already in the marketplace today. What’s unique about this particular tank cleaner that Monsanto has been in development now for the past few years, is it deactivates dicamba. So it’s a different mode of action. It’s just another tool to help applicators, especially if they are transitioning from one herbicide trait system to the next.

This is a common theme we’ve been asked by farmers: ‘What else can you provide us so we can be successful?’ It also brings even further awareness more broadly on the importance of making sure your sprayer is cleaned out appropriately from a sprayer hygiene perspective. You can do things very well as an applicator, but if that sprayer is not cleaned out effectively it could lead to symptomology in that next crop. We saw that personally with many conversations with retailers and farmers this past season.

CL: Given how big of a problem spray tank contamination was last year, how big will demand be for the product and how does it work?

Monsanto developed the technology, and we have licensed it to Adjuvants Unlimited, a well-known developer and manufacturer of technologies in crop protection. They have been in the industry for quite some time, and so they have a broad network in working with many distributors and retailers across the U.S. They will be working with distributors to provide access to this technology in various brand names. They should be making an announcement here in the next couple of weeks on the specific product and who will be distributing it in the marketplace. While it’s not available today, we anticipate having access for farmers and applicators here in the next few weeks as the spray season begins.

Really simply, this is a simple chemical reaction that is broadly used in other industries. Our focus for it this season will be on dicamba, yet we’re working with academics and Adjuvants Unlimited to see what broader scale or opportunities this technology could provide beyond dicamba.

CL: This had been in development for quite some time, so Monsanto had anticipated issues with tank clean-out?

That’s correct. We’ve been developing this and evolving to make it practical-use from a farming application perspective. The industry is now quickly understanding that it doesn’t take much dicamba to lead to symptomology on non-Roundup Ready Xtend soybeans. While I’m sure farmers have always done a good job on their sprayers and cleaning out from one crop to the next, given the fact that it takes a very limited amount of dicamba to cause symptomology, this is where additional tools and frankly, focus on making sure farmers are following triple-rinse process is needed. It’s more than focusing on the application itself, it’s what are we doing from a hygiene perspective – not only with the sprayer, but how do we ensure proper stewardship from nurse tanks. Think about it from coming from a retailer and making its way out to the field. We’ve been working with retailers to make sure they are looking at their own internal systems to ensure appropriate stewardship throughout their process as well.

CL: What are your top tips that you would like to touch on?

One to highlight is really understanding what those neighboring crops are – if they are Roundup Ready Xtend soybeans, or if another herbicide trait system is being planted. If a farmer is doing their own spraying, or if a custom applicator is coming out and spraying that acre, and if the wind is blowing in the direction of non-tolerant crops, that would be a day not to spray. From our findings last year and many conversations we had with applicators last year, that was likely at the highest of where there were some challenges and what led to some of the symptomology we heard about. You just simply can’t spray if the wind is blowing in the direction of a neighboring crop that isn’t dicamba tolerant.

The other tip is around nozzles – at least from Monsanto’s effort, we handed out over a million nozzles, and that was to ensure farmers have the appropriate nozzles to really limit and reduce that drift opportunity. One that we still want to educate folks on is, each of the products – XtendiMax, Engenia, and FeXapan – all have tank mix websites. Ours is xtendimaxapplicationrequirements.com. We highlighted that in our training. It’s important to visit that site because it will tell you exactly what approved products can be mixed with that application. Some cases require a drift reduction agent and things like that. That is there to assure farmers of what they are mixing in tank, and there is a broad level of choices, but just understanding what they are will be important.

One last one that we are starting to talk more about from a Monsanto standpoint is, we have gone through a lot of training. Over 80,000 applicators have attended mandatory training. We are also providing and launched what we refer to as a technical support call center. Essentially, we have a group of agronomic experts available via phone. If they still have questions or help on understanding the label or preparing for an application, these folks are readily available from morning to night, every day as we go through the spray season. They can be contacted at 1-844-RRXTEND. That is the same number to use if you unfortunately run into an issue or have something occur. If they want us to come take a look at something, we’ll also be prepared to have Monsanto folks go out and visit with those farmers, and if they run into a concern this coming season.

We know many thousands of farmers had success; we know that weed control has been extremely effective based on their feedback. For those that still have questions, or maybe they’re new to spraying dicamba, we want to make sure they have as many resources available as possible to help them this season.

Read more on the label requirements here:

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