4 TROUBLING STATEMENTS ABOUT DICAMBA DAMAGE

DATA IS LACKING WHEN IT COMES TO SUPPORTING THESE QUESTIONABLE STATEMENTS, SAYS AARON HAGER, UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS EXTENSION WEEDS SPECIALIST.

Gil Gullickson

(Successful Farming Staff) – Soybean injury from dicamba has occurred each year in Illinois since the product was first commercialized, writes Aaron Hager, University of Illinois (U of I) Extension weeds specialist, in this week’s issue of The Bulletin, a growing-season web newsletter from the U of I. (For the full column, go to http://bulletin.ipm.illinois.edu/?p=3942.)

“However, the response of some individuals from companies who market formulations approved for use in dicamba-resistant varieties has been unlike anything I’ve experienced during my 24-year tenure at the University of Illinois,” he writes. Some comments heard from the field, social media, and industry are, in my opinion, quite troubling.”

Reasons Hager writes in The Bulletin article include:

1. ONLY A NEGLIGIBLE PERCENTAGE OF SOYBEAN ACRES ARE AFFECTED.

I doubt anyone has completely accurate data on the actual number of soybean acres that have been impacted by dicamba. Even if those data support the aforementioned statement, I haven’t spoken with many farmers who consider themselves or their acres as “negligible.” Merely counting official reports filed with the Illinois Department of Agriculture does not accurately reflect the extent of acres impacted.

2. THOROUGHLY INVESTIGATE BEFORE DRAWING CONCLUSIONS.

This is excellent advice, especially when followed. Without question, there have been instances of symptom misidentification. However, it seems that other factors are repeatedly being mentioned as able to cause leaf cupping. Environmental conditions are frequently mentioned as inducing leaf cupping. Yet, I cannot find any peer-reviewed literature that specify or describe these conditions. If these conditions exist, one would speculate they could be replicated under controlled conditions to confirm their impact on symptom development. Also curious to me is that I have yet to see or have anyone report cupping of dicamba-resistant varieties. Are these varieties somehow immune to these environmental conditions?

3. THE INSTANCES OF VOLATILITY LIKELY ARE DUE TO APPLYING OLDER, NONAPPROVED FORMULATIONS.

Again, I ask, where are the data that indicate older formulations are being applied? If we should “thoroughly investigate before drawing conclusions,” it seems premature to me to conclude the instances of volatility are wholly attributable to older dicamba formulations. Much discussion has been made about the newer formulations that are purportedly lower volatility formulations.  (These include BASF’s Engenia, Dupont FeXapan Plus Vapor Grip Technology, and Monsanto’s Xtendimax with Vapor Grip Technology.) These statements will have to be taken at face value, as I am aware of only one university that has evaluated volatility of only one commercial formulation. Please keep in mind that low volatility is not the same as no volatility. The new formulations are still volatile, albeit less volatile than older formulations. Symptoms in many affected fields do NOT follow patterns associated with physical drift or contaminated application equipment, and exposure though volatility remains a very possible source of exposure.

4. IT IS UNLIKELY YIELD WILL BE REDUCED. YOU MIGHT EVEN SEE A YIELD INCREASE.

This is perhaps the most troubling statement I have heard. In my opinion, statements similar to these are unprofessional and unethical. These individuals do NOT have the necessary data to make such bold predictions, which include:

  • when the exposure occurred 
  • the dose of the exposure 
  • what the growing conditions will be like the remainder of the season 

When dicamba is applied in a state that grows soybean, the occurrence of off-target symptoms is not a question of if, but rather scale. Some suggest the solution is to plant all soybean acres to dicamba-resistant varieties. That might solve issues associated with soybeans, but it would likely increase the incidents of damage to other dicot species across the Illinois landscape.

POCKETS OF GOOD CROPS IN EASTERN CORN BELT (WESTERN ILLINOIS CLAIMS EXCELLENT CORN POLLINATION)

(Mike McGinnis) – For 2017, the ‘garden spot’ of the Corn Belt is believed by many to be between Peoria, Illinois, and Ames, Iowa. If that is the case, Dave Mower, a consulting agronomist located in Toulon, Illinois, is right in the midst of that garden spot.

From west central Illinois, crop conditions taper off in every other direction except west, Mowers says.

Illinois’ corn is rated 62% good/excellent, below the U.S. overall rating of 64%. Meanwhile, 63% of the Illinois corn crop is in the silk stage, behind the state’s five-year average of 68%, according to the USDA’s latest crop conditions report.

“In the northern, eastern, and southern parts of Illinois, we have a lot of field variability this year,” Mowers says. “And I will say this, we do not have the crops that we had last year.”

GOOD CROPS IN EASTERN CORN BELT

Illinois corn and soybean growers have had everything thrown at them from Mother Nature, Mowers says.

“We have areas of the state that have had excessive rain, other areas that are too dry, and then my area of west central Illinois that has had excellent corn pollination,” Mowers says.

Though June was very dry for most of the state of Illinois, with some spots receiving no rain, July has brought relief with rain and humidity.

“This humidity helps too. Even though human beings don’t like it, it’s just what the crops love. Humidity is the crop’s friend,” Mowers says.

Some of the fields of his farmer customers are yield-testing fairly strong for this time of the year.

“A few of my clients say they have ears that read 18 rows of kernels around and 40 kernels in length. Those numbers have the potential to yield around 200 bushels per acre or better. But time will tell,” Mowers says.

There is one thing that Mowers doesn’t think has been considered and that is the setbacks from all of the cloud cover this growing season.

“We have not had the amount of full sunny days to get maximum photosynthesis needed for this corn crop. And we may pay the price for that. In addition, this pollination follows right along with the toll on the crop in May during that cold stretch,” Mowers says.

That May weather created uneven emergence, poor shading, spotty tasseling, and seedling mortality. As a result, we could see some uneven moisture levels in this corn crop at harvest. This variability will make for tougher dry down efforts at harvest, the Illinois crop consultant says.

ILLINOIS SOYBEANS

The west central Illinois soybeans look good, but it’s only July 21. And therein lies the problem.

“I just can’t say too much about a bean crop until later on in the year,” Mowers says.

The Illinois soybean crop is rated 67% good/excellent vs. the overall U.S. crop rating of 61%, according to this week’s USDA Crop Progress Report.

For Illinois, 30% of the soybeans have entered growth stage R3 (pod-setting), the USDA report stated.

DICAMBA TROUBLES

“We are seeing leaf cupping. More than likely this is due to dicamba damage. You can see it from the road, while driving 55 miles per hour. That has become a real issue. Whether it will cause yield loss is indeterminable. The combine will determine that result,” Mowers says.

Illinois is also facing issues with the infestation of this year’s Japanese beetles, as is Indiana.

INDIANA CROPS VARY WIDELY

In its latest Crop Progress Report, the USDA rated the Indiana corn crop as 47% good/excellent vs. the overall U.S. crop rating of 64%.

Kent Haring, Medaryville, Indiana, says that he feels fortunate to be in the part of the Hoosier state where crops are looking green in July.

“I would grade the corn crop, in my area, at an A-minus to a B-plus. And the soybean crop is a B-plus,” Haring says. “Things look pretty good, nothing to brag about on the upper echelon, but no bad crops either.

“We have very few problems with our crops, despite a goofy spring. Right now, we feel pretty fortunate, quite honestly,” adds Haring.

While Haring’s corn crop has not pollinated, overall, Indiana’s crops reflect a slower developing growing season.

As of this week, just 39% of Indiana’s corn crop is in the silk stage vs. the state’s 51% five-year average.

The bad part of the Indiana crop story is that there is a lot of pest and insect pressure, this year.

“As we speak, a yellow crop-dusting airplane is flying over my head,” Haring says. “Plane are flying all over the place, applying fungicide and insecticide. We have western cutworm, bean leaf beetle, and Japanese beetle pressure (as shown in the photo above).”

Haring adds, “There are clipped silks everywhere. There are bugs everywhere.”

For soybeans, the Indiana crop is rated at 49% good/excellent vs. the U.S. 61% rating, the USDA stated this week. Also, 27% of the Indiana soybean crop is in the pod-setting stage.

“The soybeans change so fast. But, they look good. We planted all Dicamba soybeans and they are doing well,” Haring says.

The 2 inches of rain a week ago has helped Haring’s crops survive some extremely hot days.

“We have water ponding in my driveway, right now. So, we don’t have a water problem.”

OHIO LOOKS GREEN

Justin Barnes, a south-central Ohio farmer, says that this week’s 6 inches of rain have his corn on its way.

“It’s a great feeling to see green crops in July. We didn’t have that last year. Plus, in June we went three weeks without any rain,” Barnes told Agriculture.com.

Barnes has corn that is fully pollinated with brown silks. “We’ve had very little pest pressure. I applied fungicide to both the corn and soybeans this week. And I think we will have a better crop this year than last year,” Barnes says.

In south-central Ohio, there was a record amount of replanted crops due to flooding. “We had a lot of crusting of the soil at planting time. So, we have corn that has just tasseled in the area. And the soybeans are in good shape, but they could still go either way,” Barnes says.