Doing our due diligence with dicamba decisions

By now, you have likely heard that MFA Incorporated will have new internal policies for the sale and use of dicamba herbicides for the 2018 growing season. Our guidelines will be responsive to actual growing conditions based on field reports from our agronomists, crop scouts and other MFA personnel across our trade territory.

Once soybeans hit the R1 growth stage, MFA will no longer spray dicamba due to the inherent risk of off-target movement. We feel like it’s important to base our decisions on actual growth stages, and R1 is at the beginning of flowering. If we wait until too late in the season, we’re afraid that we will put too many soybeans in our territory at risk.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture has mandated that the cutoff date will be June 1 for 10 counties in the Bootheel and July 15 statewide, and MFA will adhere to those rules. But because MFA’s policies are based on plant maturity rather than calendar dates, our policy could be more restrictive than state guidelines. In other words, we may stop spraying well before those dates if conditions dictate.

To determine when to halt dicamba applications, MFA will launch an intensive scouting protocol this spring to track soybean growth and provide timely information to applicators about crop progress. We are establishing a network of “sentinel plots,” representing the average planting dates and maturity ranges of soybeans in different regions of MFA’s service territory. These plots will be scouted every Monday and reports sent to all MFA employees on Tuesday mornings with notes about maturity and potential cutoff dates for spraying dicamba. Applicators will be alerted when the majority of soybeans in their area have reached the reproductive stage, when dicamba injury can do the most harm to non-target plants.

As part of these guidelines, MFA Incorporated will only use the new dicamba formulations authorized for use with dicamba-tolerant crops, including Monsanto’s XtendiMax, BASF’s Engenia and DuPont’s FeXapan. We will not custom-apply or sell over the counter any old formulation of straight dicamba products such as Banvel, Clarity and Detonate. This does not include blended products such as Range Star, DiFlexx and Status.

Most growers are well aware that these actions are in response to widespread complaints that dicamba herbicides drifted and harmed non-tolerant crops during the 2017 growing season. Nationwide, 3.6 million acres of soybeans suffered harm associated with dicamba, and states launched 2,708 investigations into dicamba-related crop damage, according to data compiled by the University of Missouri. Missouri received about 310 complaints from growers related to dicamba, second only to the nearly 1,000 filed in Arkansas.

Arkansas has effectively banned dicamba’s use by setting April 15 as the cutoff for applications. We’re still waiting to hear if other neighboring states in MFA geography, such as Iowa and Kansas, set dates that fall outside our own guidelines. Otherwise, we will follow MFA’s policies in those areas.

In Missouri, the Department of Agriculture requires anyone spraying dicamba to have a certified private applicator license or certified commercial applicator license, the latter of which applies to MFA employees. Before purchase or use of the product, both private and commercial applicators must complete mandatory dicamba training provided by the University of Missouri Extension. We are working with MU’s Dr. Kevin Bradley to make sure MFA applicators receive this training.

We need dicamba technology to combat weed resistance, but we have to be good stewards. Protecting the technology for the future is important, not only from an economic standpoint but also an environmental standpoint. This technology is up for renewal by the EPA in December 2018, and if we have another outcome like we did last year, we may not have this tool anymore.

We hope MFA’s proactive move will set a trend so that other companies, applicators and farmers will follow our lead to help protect this technology.

We will be posting the latest information on throughout the growing season.

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