Wednesday, September 06, 2017

EPA might ban spraying of dicamba, blamed for widespread crop damage, after cut-off in 2018

The Environmental Protection Agency may ban sprayings of the herbicide dicamba after a set deadline next year, Tom Polansek and Emily Flitter report for Reuters. The deadline could be as early as the first half of 2018. After dicamba is sprayed on crops, it sometimes dries into a fine powder that is picked up and spread by the wind. This has reportedly caused damage to 3.1 million acres of soybeans this year--about 3.5 percent of U.S. plantings. Arkansas and Missouri issued temporary bans on dicamba spraying and Tennessee announced restrictions on its use because of those reports. A ban could hurt sales for Monsanto, which sells dicamba-tolerant soybean seeds as well as DuPont and BASF, which sell dicamba herbicides.

Reuters graphic; click to enlarge it
EPA officials have said that "significant changes" need to be made in rules for dicamba usage, and held at least three conference calls since July with knowledgeable regulators and experts from affected states. The big question is when the cut-off date will be. If it's early enough in the year, farmers would only be able to spray fields before soybeans sprout, protecting vulnerable crops in adjacent fields. Monsanto spokesperson Christi Dixon told Reuters that the EPA might not ban dicamba sprayings on soybeans that had already sprouted. "State regulators and university specialists from Arkansas, Missouri, Illinois, Iowa and North Dakota are pressuring the EPA to decide soon on rules guiding usage because farmers will make planting decisions for next spring over the next several months," Polansek and Flitter report.

The possible ban is not the EPA's only response to the dicamba issue. The agency has also asked state officials to consider more training for farmers who use dicamba, and has considered both tighter restrictions on dicamba use, and removing it from sale to the general public.

No comments: