We spoke with David Dyson, Agronomist with The Andersons, on the cost of dicamba and how the company reduces its liability.
CL: Do you expect Enlist to be a big competitor coming up, given the issues with dicamba drift?
I think it will be a competitor, absolutely. The only advantage dicamba has is a lot more residual in the soil than 2,4-D has.
CL: What is your approach to dicamba in your region?
I like to promote the dicamba product – Engenia, FeXapan, and XtendiMax – to spray with a good residual and Roundup, right before or right after you plant the soybeans. Here in central Indiana, not much is up at the time, and we don’t have a whole lot of risk for drift. There are a lot of tomatoes in the area, however, which are very sensitive to dicamba. If we can put the product down in ground prior to when they set the tomatoes in the ground, then that’s good.
I also work with our farm centers in northern Michigan, and they have sugarbeets. Sugarbeets are getting planted right now. They are up at that time, and so we don’t promote a dicamba application there, because they are sensitive.
CL: Does The Andersons do custom application and if so, can you give me an idea how it’s gone?
Yes, we do. Our farm centers have been applying it either preemerge or early post for soybeans, because it reduces our liability. We’ll sell it to farmers who can apply it as late as the label states – in Indiana, it’s 45 days after planting or before R1. We try to limit in our liability on that.
CL: What was your training like to prepare for the 2019 season?
What we did at The Andersons, is we brought all the applicators back to our corporate headquarters in Maumee, OH in January, and we had a whole day of training. By law, we have to have one of the reps of the three registrants give an hour-and-a-half presentation on how and when to use the product. We coupled that with a safety spraying lecture from our safety department.
I invited Dr. Kruger from University of Nebraska to come out. There’s the law that tells you, you have to do it this way. But it’s always nice to know why: why are they saying you have to do it this way? Because if you add AMS to the product, it breaks up that bond that’s reducing drift and volatilization and reverts it back to the old Banvel product. I think it’s always good to explain the ‘why,’ not just lay down the law.
CL: How have your results been with this product thus far?
We’ve had very few complaints about dicamba. It’s such a short data set. The couple that we have had, it’s always been those later, post applications, so that’s why we’re trying to encourage the farm centers and clients not to spray then – even though it’s legal, let’s not; let’s keep it earlier on.
CL: What feedback and major questions have you gotten?
This is a great story. In central Indiana, there’s a county called Miami County. The year before dicamba came out, at the end of the soybean season – we’re talking late July, August – we had a marestail problem. It’s resistant to Roundup, ALS, and everything except for a hoe. We were having whole fields taken by this weed. We were throwing everything at it: high rates of Roundup, Flexstar – of course, you can’t spray that after a certain date, because you run the risk of it holding over to the next year. After that date, we went to Cobra, which is a PPO that burns the crap out of everything. Nothing was affecting it, and some fields couldn’t get harvested because the marestail was so thick.
That next year, the dicamba team came out. In northern Miami County, at least, I would say it was a 75-percent adoption rate because of the marestail situation. And guess what? The next year, we didn’t have a marestail problem. What happened was, we promoted the dicamba with a good residual with Roundup. We put it at right before or right after planting, and we smoked the marestail. We were damaging it before, but we weren’t killing it.
CL: So they’re marestail-free now.
It’s not a problem anymore. Weeds always seem to fight back, right? It’s always a battle, because you’re always selecting for the next variety of weeds. Now, we’re worried about waterhemp and Palmer coming in later, in late July and August. Dicamba is not labeled for spraying that late. So that’s the next weed, because it’s making its way east from Illinois.
Dicamba seems to last in the soil for about 30 days. That’s the thing. If you get a good start to the soybeans and it can get some shading, it will really help with the weed situation.
CL: More on the custom application front: How do you approach it in terms of being prepared to spray when the conditions are right?
The more volume, the better. Let’s face it: It takes time and money to transport water to the field. A lot of guys want to spray 10 gallons to the acre. Well, you’re asking for a lot of trouble. Fifteen gallons is on the label, but we have seen less volatility and drift with 20 gallons to the acre.
We also dedicate one machine for dicamba.
CL: So you’re not even bothering with clean-out and potential tank contamination.
Right. That way you don’t run the risk, because dicamba likes to stay in pockets. The newer machines are getting better, but some of the older machines have a lot of dead areas and pockets where materials can hide. Honestly, before we were probably spraying other chemicals out there, it’s just that dicamba shows a crop response at one of the lowest rates that we have. I think we see more damage from tank contamination than we do from anything else. That’s my feeling on it.
If you can dedicate a machine to just spraying dicamba all spring, it reduces your liability. That’s the key. You can’t eliminate your liability, but try to reduce that liability as much as possible. Unfortunately, that takes some treasure, because you have to have an extra machine around.
CL: How many extra resources do you devote to this technology? What is your cost for selling and spraying dicamba?
I don’t know, for us as a company. But to a farmer, it’s a lot cheaper than multiple applications of an ALS or a PPO herbicide. If they’re making money, we’re making money. That’s the key to everything. If the producer isn’t making money, then us as a retailer, we’re not making any money either. They pay our bills.
I just saw a mailing that Indiana Farm Bureau sent out for their 100th anniversary. It says that in 1924, harvested soybean acres in Indiana totaled 66,000. In 2018, there were 5.9 million acres of soybeans harvested. Soybean yield was 9.9 bushels to the acre in 1924. In 2018 it was 58.5 bushels. I love that.
CL: Big picture, how important has this technology been for The Andersons and what do you see going forward?
This is a great tool that we don’t want to squander away. The problem is that they’re already showing weed resistance out West. This is a great tool we have to use. There is a lot of resistance to atrazine and other chemistries, but we still use them. It’s just another tool in the toolbox.
I think that’s the big picture. We have to use it, but we have to know how and when to use it.