Missouri Agriculture Director Chris Chinn says about 250 total complaints involving crop damage from a weed killer called dicamba have been reported this year to her department. About half of those complaints were made after a temporary ban was lifted a month ago.
“We have had a lot come in in the last month but I also think we have a lot more awareness this year than we did in years past,” says Chinn. “That contributes to it as well. It is heavier in southeast Missouri but we’re having complaints come in from all over the state.”
On July 13, the state ban enforced stricter conditions for spraying the pesticide products made by companies Monsanto, DuPont and BASF. The requirements included things like wind speed and the time farmers can apply such chemicals.
“I think we brought awareness to the issue. Not everybody realized that there was a problem out there. I think it did force people to re-evaluate to make sure that they were following that label correctly,” says Chinn. “That’s what we really wanted. We just wanted neighbors to continue to be good neighbors to each other.”
Chinn says the reports are starting to slow down. The herbicide’s damage has been mostly to soybeans, but other vegetables and fruits have also been affected.
“Missouri agriculture is very diverse,” says Chinn. “Everybody has been hit on this. There’s really no winners.”
Missouri Farm Bureau President Blake Hurst says in the past, his members have supported herbicide technology, but he says it’s not clear what position will be developed by members this time.
“There is no solution that’s going to make everybody happen and that’s why it’s such a challenge for everybody in agriculture,” says Hurst.
Scott Partridge with Monsanto, which sells dicamba, tells Missourinet not all of the complaints are about suspected damage caused by the chemical.
“There are questions from growers about use of the product, about function, about application considerations,” says Patridge. “Of the calls that we’ve had about off-target movement or damage suspected to be caused by dicamba, we’ve mobilized a team, we’re responding to every single customer’s call with a field visit, we’re looking with them at their crops, at the target field, at the affected field, we’re looking through records with them, we’re helping them work through potential causes of movement.”
Partridge urges farmers to follow the application directions.
“If our product is applied in accordance with the label that was approved by the EPA and accepted by 33 states across the United States, we know from out 1,200+ tests that off-target movement won’t happen,” says Partridge.
The estimated cost of the suspected damage and number of acres affected are unknown.
Tom Steever of Brownfield Ag News contributed to this story.