New technology brings promise and challenges

Dicamba- and 2,4-D-resistant crops are here. 

I wouldn’t be considered a weed scientist if I didn’t write about weed control in at least one of my springtime columns. The past few months were exciting for new cropping technologies. Monsanto received EPA approval for its Xtend-branded product. And DOW was approved to sell Enlist cropping technologies. These soybean systems will provide additional tools for growers to diversify their crop protection plans.

Monsanto’s Xtend provides soybean tolerance to dicamba. DOW’s Enlist provides tolerance to 2,4-D. Both of these technologies are a tool for your toolbox. However, these technologies are not a silver bullet. If you expect another glyphosate-like system, you will be disappointed. As with any new technology, there are challenges and hurdles to overcome as they are implemented. Both DOW and Monsanto are working closely with China to get approval for these technologies. Aside from international approval and regulatory efforts, the companies will work closely with retailers and producers to make sure everyone is educated on the new system. That’s going to be important as these crops come to the field.

MFA operates a large fleet of custom-application rigs. As hired applicators, we see some risk from these new products.

Let me explain that: I don’t see new and original risks, but risks that will return as more significant than
they’ve been in the recent past.  Everyone will need to be wary of off-target movement, volatility, tank contamination and misapplication—just to name a few.

MFA has implemented an applicator training program for all of our custom applicators. The program educates our employees on proper application techniques, mixing, risk management and adjuvant selection. Off-target movement is taken seriously at MFA. With any crop protection application, the target area must be evaluated and proper techniques applied to reduce off-target movement. At MFA, we use Driftwatch.org at most locations to make sure we are aware of any susceptible crops grown close to our customers’ field. If you are applying your own crop-protection products, consider looking at this site. It’s a good resource.

Both Monsanto and DOW have made significant strides to reduce volatility in their crop-protection products. When most people think of dicamba, they think of Banvel and 2,4-D as an amine. That is not the case with either of these new products. For Xtend, Monsanto uses dicamba with Vapor Grip technologies. DOW uses 2,4-D choline for Enlist. Both products reduce volatility when applied within the guidelines and labels from the respective companies. You’ll still need to watch spray-day weather and be smart about application timing.

One thing that will require extra vigilance from anyone applying these new products is tank and sprayer hygiene. Tank contamination is a big concern. You can no longer have any solution left in the sprayer when you go to the next field. If you mix the herbicides and put them on the wrong field, significant yield loss can result. Think back to the late 90s when Roundup Ready cropping systems were just coming out. “What was a major concern? What did my neighbor plant? Will it drift?” And so forth. These are the same concerns that will be in the air, so to speak, as these new products move forward. We’ll have to work together to have the right answers to these questions. Communication will be critical with these cropping systems.

Have a look at the photos that accompany this article. That’s what a tank contamination error will look like. The photos were taken 24 hours after treatment. However, two weeks after application, damage from dicamba was significantly worse than 2,4-D. Either way, all applications resulted in a total loss of beans by harvest. So even small amounts of contamination can result in a total loss of your crop.

At the beginning of this article, I mentioned that new crop-protection technology is no silver bullet. That is correct. It will remain correct. In fact, if you think about the chemistries that now have resistance, I think it is fair to say that it has always been correct. It’s still best to use preemerge herbicides with an overlapping residual. I think one of the greatest utilities of both Extend and Enlist technologies is the burndown market. The ability to spray Xtend or Enlist, then come back and plant with no restrictions will be a good opportunity. This will allow you to make sure you start with a field free of weeds. Starting clean has been a struggle in some areas of our trade territory every year. Once a crop is planted, your herbicide options are limited. In fields where marestail or giant ragweed have emerged at planting you can plan for the weeds to be there at harvest, spreading seed for next year.

These new chemistries bring excitment and concern at the same time. The technology that has been approved gives you another option, but also has baggage that comes with it. MFA is striving to train our applicators and managers about these new technologies. If you have any questions please contact your local store for more details on the technologies or how MFA is training our applicators.

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