“We just can’t coexist – it’s just so volatile and unpredictable,” says farmer
EXCERPT: Critics suggested Missouri’s ban may have been short-lived because officials are wary of companies such as Creve Coeur-based Monsanto, which introduced dicamba-tolerant seed varieties. “I think Monsanto’s got too much political power in the state of Missouri,” [farmer Tom] Burnham said. “I’m surprised the ban got implemented at all.”
Reports of crop damage resurfacing since Missouri dicamba ban lifted
By Bryce Gray
St Louis Post-Dispatch, 4 Aug 2017
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Since mid-July, Missouri farmers have resumed spraying dicamba after a temporary ban on the controversial weedkiller was lifted by the state Department of Agriculture. Now, some farmers are reporting that damage to sensitive crops is reappearing — a lag time that suggests the injury occurred soon after the ban ended.
Tom Burnham, a Blytheville, Ark., grower who farms thousands of acres in Arkansas and across the state line in Missouri, says that “every acre” of his Missouri soybeans is showing symptoms of damage incurred since that time. He blames the recent applications of the herbicide, which can be prone to vaporizing — or volatilizing — and drifting off-target.
“We’re just now seeing the fallout,” said Burnham on Tuesday, noting that signs of damage, such as cupped leaves, take a week or two to emerge. “This has raised its head again in the last three days.”
In comparison, Burnham says the bulk of his acreage in Arkansas — where a similar dicamba ban remains in place — has been spared the same recent damage, with some fields near the state border standing as an exception.
In places, he says his injured crops are “at least a mile away” from the nearest possible point source of dicamba. To him, that distance helps underscore that newly approved forms of the herbicide can’t be safely used alongside farmers whose crops aren’t genetically modified to tolerate the chemical.
“We just can’t coexist,” he says. “It’s just so volatile and unpredictable.”
This year, well over 1,000 official investigations into reported dicamba damage have flooded officials in more than a dozen states, according to the University of Missouri’s Division of Plant Sciences. Missouri and Arkansas are two of the states hit hardest by damage complaints, and each announced bans of dicamba on July 7 in an attempt to stem the surging epidemic of cases.
Arkansas’ ban will remain in effect for a 120-day window. But Missouri’s was lifted less than a week later, on July 13, when the state Department of Agriculture issued stricter conditions for applying new dicamba products made by agrochemical companies Monsanto, BASF and DuPont. Those rules — which target factors such as wind speed at the time of application — will be in place until Dec. 1.
Critics suggested Missouri’s ban may have been short-lived because officials are wary of companies such as Creve Coeur-based Monsanto, which introduced dicamba-tolerant seed varieties.
“I think Monsanto’s got too much political power in the state of Missouri,” Burnham said. “I’m surprised the ban got implemented at all.”
The state Department of Agriculture did not address those claims but said it would “continue to monitor (the dicamba) situation for the remainder of the growing season to determine the appropriate action moving forward.”
Representatives from both Monsanto and BASF said the companies continue their own investigations into reported damage attributed to their new dicamba formulations. Officials at Monsanto and throughout the industry “absolutely continue to stand by the technology,” suggesting that this year’s complaints may result from illegal use of unapproved, more volatile forms of dicamba or lack of compliance with proper spray procedures.
Those claims, however, are challenged not only by farmers such as Burnham but by a growing chorus of experts at universities and extension offices who have levied harsh criticism toward the agricultural industry for what they say is a failure to acknowledge an obvious problem of off-target dicamba movement.
Kevin Bradley, a University of Missouri plant sciences professor tracking the issue, concluded a recent post on the subject with rhetorical questions suggesting that those alternative explanations couldn’t account for the soaring totals of damage being reported.
“Can you look at the scale and the magnitude of the problem on these maps and really believe that all of this can collectively be explained by some combination of physical drift, sprayer error, failure to follow guidelines, temperature inversions, generic dicamba usage, contaminated glufosinate products, and improper sprayer clean-out, but that volatility is not also a factor?” Bradley asked.
“I know what my perspective is, what’s yours?”