CropLife had the opportunity to talk dicamba and what it means to be successful with the product with Dr. Jason Weirich, Director of Agronomy with MFA Inc., the farm supply and marketing cooperative serving more than 45,000 farmer/owners in Missouri and adjacent states.
Are you applying more dicamba than last year? What’s your experience been like?
We have had quite of few applications of XtendiMax, FeXapan, or Engenia going on for the past few weeks, but I can’t give you exact acreage. We don’t have any complaints calls as of yet. I remember last year it was June 6th when I got my first complaint call for XtendiMax, as far as an off-target movement. We are kind of coming into that sweet spot. If we are going to have some issues that’s when it’s going to start happening.
We’ve got the new label uniformity between XtendiMax and Engenia. The labels are pretty similar as far as application guidelines, from buffers to downwinds to sensitive crops. It’s nice that both of the labels match up – it helps to reduce a lot of the confusion that’s out there.
I think we are doing a good job. Our applicators are more aware. I know I get some calls sometimes asking, ‘What do I do?’ Just don’t do it. They’re OK with that and change the game plan. We’ve also had applicators sitting on the edge of the field waiting for the wind to pick up for the 3 to 10 mph (wind speed requirement.) I had one guy sit there for two hours waiting for the wind to come up to 3 mph. We’ve had some pretty calm days for the last couple of weeks. That’s the reality of where we’re at – we’re just trying to follow the guidelines.
What about timing of any potential complaints this year – did you have late plantings due to rain?
We have actually been a little earlier. We went straight to corn in April, and then went straight into beans. We’ve had some beans that are still going in the ground, and we’ve had a lot that have been in there for a while and are already at R4. We’ve been doing a good job getting our beans in the ground, so we’ve already had quite a bit up and rolling.
As far as dicamba applications, we started with the burndown side of things back in April, and we really haven’t stopped doing applications.
How does the application process work at MFA?
We do our own custom application. We’ve got our own internal protocol based off what we call our sentinel plots. We’ve got our states divided into 10 different geographies going into southern Iowa, eastern Kansas, and northeast Arkansas.
We have our states broken into different geographies and are scouting fields based off maturity groups in these areas. So if we have a 4.0 bean in central Missouri, we’re watching that field from the time it’s planted. When those fields hit R1, we’re going to shut down spraying for that geography. We’ve got 10 plots set up in these different geographies, so 80 total plots, and we’re evaluating every week based off growth stage. When those beans hit R1, everybody in that geography is done spraying, because the label says that at the beginning of R1, you have to be done. If we damage reproductive soybeans, it’s going to be worse than it is if they’re vegetative soybeans, and also from a label perspective, you don’t want to spray past R1.
Last year, you got your first complaint call on June 6th. How did it go after that – how many calls did you get?
(Laughs). A lot. We had well over 100. Now, not all of those are what we would consider to be off-target movement. We had tank contamination; we had spraying with the wind in the wrong direction; we had some with the wrong tips; we had some with the wrong adjuvants in tank.
We had complaint calls even without XtendiMax or Engenia with the same issues – drift with Roundup or drift with Liberty. It wasn’t just tank mixes (with the new technologies) that were a problem. We had a heightened awareness with the Xtend platform.
Some of the complaints were our fault. It was pretty plain and simple that we made a mistake. There were some that we questioned, ‘Hey, what’s going on.’ We really didn’t know, and tried to dig in and look at weather patterns, shift, and movement after applications. Those were some things we tried to dive into to see if we could at least least figure out.
Do you feel that with everything that’s happened since then, things should go much better this year?
I am a positive thinker, so I am hoping it’s all going to be all good. Realistically, if we have an expectation of 100% success, I think that’s unrealistic. One thing I try to talk about to these guys, is we make mistakes. If you’re expecting 100% success, then you’re asking too much. We make mistakes with Liberty and Roundup. Expecting no complaints is unreasonable. We’ve just got to be good neighbors, good stewards of the product, and do the best that we can and not make blatant label violations. As long as we are being aware and sensitive to those issues around us, I think that’s where we’re at.
I think that is the message for the industry as a whole: what does success look like? Dicamba’s coming up for re-approval in November, but what does that success look like? If it’s 100% and no complaints, then we might as well take it off the label today, because we’re going to have problems. That’s the way it is. You take away those bad actors that are blatantly doing it wrong – and that’s what is hurting the industry is a whole, is those guys that are (blatantly violating the label.)
Overall was your feedback on dicamba good from growers, or did the 100-plus calls you got represent a big percentage of your sprayed acreage?
We had some very good success out there. We had guys that made timely applications, and didn’t have any issues. We also had those guys that had issues controlling the weeds already on the fields. Remember that this is a new technology for us to be using in-crop. We’ve used dicamba a lot in the burndown, fall plot, pasture, in the corn with (Bayer) DiFlexx status. But on a large scale, this is the first time we’ve used these products in June, July across as many acres as we did.
I think we had that mixed group out there. We had guys that worked with it and did it great, and even some farmer-applied stuff that did not have issues at all. Then we had some that it was a learning experience for them. So we ran the gamut of good to bad on the perception of their experience.
Were you involved in much of the training after last season?
We did our own applicator training, so we had a little over 200 come to our site. Kevin Bradley from the University of Missouri came in and did the required Missouri training in the morning, and then we went over our policy, expectations on tank clean-out, and procedures in the afternoon. Some of our restrictions are tighter than what the states do. We’re trying to police ourselves as well as follow the state guidelines.
Was there anything surprising you learned over the course of the first year with the new dicamba technologies?
I think it’s pretty easy to miss some things on the label. We saw guys that thought they had the right tips on, but it was a TT-110 instead of a TTI-110, so that little ‘I’ in there was a little different.
But I think the biggest thing we saw with the struggle was in the confusion in the marketplace between the two different products. The labels were different. There was swinging back and forth on what products to use. I think that when we looked at the 2017 season going into 2018, that’s what we wanted: label uniformity to where they’re pretty much the same as far as requirements such as downwind speeds, sensitive species, buffers, and all of that. That was nice to see (the differences in labels) come out. Hopefully, that did away with a lot of the confusion out there.
Now we’re kind of into a situation where we’re looking at the different tank mixes on the site. We have different tank mixes that are allowed with Engenia vs. XtendiMax or FeXapan, and that causes issues. I think that’s a question that the industry is going to have to answer, is understanding why one tank mix is available for one and not the other. That was some of the questions we got, is ‘Hey, why is that this way?’
If we’ve got something in stock, we want to make sure we can use what’s in stock – it’s already in our inventory. But in some situations, we’ve had to go outside and buy new inventory so we’re stuck with some other inventory (to meet tank-mix requirements.)
How important do you think it is that we keep this new technology?
Here’s where we’re at. We’re seeing a rapid increase of LibertyLink acres. We see off-label applications of Liberty – by that I mean weed height. We’re see Liberty being pushed to the nth degree as far as what type of weeds and how big of weeds can they control. We’ve already done that with Roundup. We know Roundup doesn’t control our marestail, horsetail, giant ragweed, common rageweed, and pigweed species in general. So we’ve already burned through Roundup; we’re pushing Liberty to the max today. It’s only a matter of time before we start seeing some issues with that, if it’s not already out there.
You look at the future down the pipeline, there’s really not a whole lot coming. So we do need this technology. We need it from a weed control standpoint. I agree that it should be used on the preemerge, burndown side of things – I think that’s the best application for it, and then go in and overlap residuals. We have some guys out there that are already abusing this system, that are waiting till later in the year to make applications of dicamba, and all we’re doing is setting ourselves up for failure.
I don’t know that residuals are 100% the answer, but I think they are a key to: helping reduce off-target applications, reduce herbicide resistance to this technology, and preserve this technology for the future.
I like the 2,4-D Enlist system. We’ve been using 2,4-D in burndown and have been seeing less control on marestail and giant ragweed with 2,4-D – we’ve been using it for quite a few years in burndown. I think we need all these technologies to work together. I think we just need to figure out how we can all play together.
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