Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Over 2,700 complaints about crop damage caused by dicamba; hit 4% of U.S. soybean crop

Startling figures about the damage done by a controversial herbicide were presented at a Nov. 1 meeting called by the Environmental Protection Agency and attended by pesticide manufacturers, state agriculture officials, farmer groups and environmentalists. University of Missouri plant sciences professor Kevin Bradley found that dicamba has damaged more than 3.6 million acres of soybean crops (about 4 percent of all soybeans planted in the U.S.), and damage complaints were filed in more than two dozen states. Most of the complaints were about soybeans, but other complaints said dicamba had damaged other fruits, vegetables, residential gardens, trees and shrubs.

University of Missouri map; click on the image to enlarge it.
"Reuben Baris, the acting chief of the herbicides branch of the EPA, said that 2,708 complaints had been reported to state agriculture officials about dicamba crop damage as of mid-October. They came from 25 of the 34 states where the 'over the top' application is approved for use. The largest number of complaints were filed in Arkansas, where there were 986 incidents, and Missouri, which had 310," Eric Lipton reports for The New York Times.

University of Missouri map; click on the image to enlarge it.
Dicamba has been used since World War II on fields before plants sprout, but only late last year was approved for spraying on already-sprouted soybeans and cotton that were genetically modified to resist it and are threatened by invasive weeds such as palmer amaranth (pigweed). But dicamba is notorious for its volatility, and drifts to other fields where it damages crops. Complaints have led individual states such as Missouri and Arkansas to temporarily ban its use at the state level.

When the EPA approved "over the top" use of dicamba, it notified manufacturers Monsanto, BASF and DuPont that they would have to secure new approval of its use after two years. Baris and Rick Keigwin Jr., the director of EPA's pesticide program, "made clear on Wednesday that approval might be in jeopardy if the measures being taken for the next growing season did not significantly reduce the scope of the drift damage," Lipton reports.

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