ARROWSMITH – Dr. Aaron Hager, a weed scientist from the University of Illinois, encourages farmers to utilize new chemical technology but to be careful when using it.
When it comes to dicamba herbicide, Hager urges farmers not to skimp on rates in a pre-planting application. The idea is for the herbicide to last as long as it can instead of applying so much later on. The time before planting is a good time for application since residual activity can occur.
“The hope is by doing it that way, we can avoid these mid and late June applications of dicamba,” Hager told farmers attending the annual chemical meeting hosted by BCS last week.
Hager notes the later applications are the ones which tend to get farmers in trouble. He believes in attacking species of herbicide resistant weeds at the most volatile stage of the life cycle. By doing whatever it takes to ensure no seeds get into a field, the weed population will eventually plummet.
In Hager’s opinion, the worst way to use the dicamba formulation is for a post emergence herbicide only. He reminded the crowd that 1996 was the first year scouting began for the first glyphosate-resistant weeds. Prior to that, Roundup was used in burndown applications.
“I’ll give it three more years and we’re done if this is our only solution,” Hager explained.
Volatility can occur regardless of nozzle size or whether or not you have a buffer with Engenia and XtendiMax. The intention of the required buffer is to protect endangered species. The Illinois Fertilizer and Chemical Association mailed a survey to members who are retail applicators. Over 80 percent of the respondents said nearby fields were impacted this past year from dicamba application.
Hager believes that for every one problem that was reported, 10 were not. Dicamba-injured soybean acreage in the U.S. is estimated at 3.6 million acres – something Hager has never seen in his years at the University of Illinois. The “900-pound gorilla in the room” is volatility, according to Hager. This is the movement after application when the herbicide converts to a gas.
“News media outlets aren’t focusing on science but public perception,” Hager noted.
News outlets such as Reuters, The Washington Post and even CNN have reached out to Hager with questions. He said the national news media does not care about soybean yields but will focus on potential health consequences, among other things.
“They will not stop with dicamba. It will be everything.”